Lateral Collateral Ligament

 

The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is one of the four knee ligaments. It spans the distance from the end of the femur (thigh bone) to the top of the fibula (thin, outer, lower leg bone) and is on the outside of the knee.

The lateral collateral ligament resists widening of the outside of the joint. A lateral collateral ligament injury happens from a direct force from the side of the knee, causing moderate to severe knee pain and ligament injury which often leads to knee surgery.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a tear in the lateral collateral ligament are:

  • Knee swelling
  • Locking or catching of the knee with movement
  • Pain or tenderness along the outside of the knee
  • Knee gives way, or feels like it is going to give way, when it is active or stressed in a certain way

Diagnosis

Patients with a lateral collateral ligament injury will have lateral knee pain and a sense of giving way.  An examination by a sports medicine specialist will note laxity in the lateral ligament with stress. If you have suffered a ligament injury and are now experiencing knee pain, or instability, evaluation by an orthopaedic specialist can make a diagnosis and recommend treatment options to heal your injury.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Ice. Icing your injury is important in the healing process. The proper way to ice an injury is to use crushed ice directly to the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, with at least 1 hour between icing sessions. Chemical cold products (“blue” ice) should not be placed directly on the skin and are not as effective.

Bracing. Your knee must be protected from the same sideways force that caused the injury. You may need to change your daily activities to avoid risky movements. Your doctor may recommend a brace to protect the injured ligament from stress. To further protect your knee, you may be given crutches to keep you from putting weight on your leg.

Physical therapy. Your doctor may suggest strengthening exercises. Specific exercises will restore function to your knee and strengthen the leg muscles that support it.

Surgical Treatment

Some isolated collateral ligament injuries can be successfully treated without surgery. If the collateral ligament is torn in such a way that it cannot heal or is associated with other ligament injuries, your doctor may suggest surgery to repair it.

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