The lateral collateral ligament (lcl) is the ligament running along the outside (lateral side) of the knee joint. See the illustration to the left, and click to zoom. An lCL tear or sprain is a knee injury that results from damage (tearing, overstretching or complete rupture) to this ligament. Symptoms of an LCL injury may include knee pain, swelling, stiffness, and instability (in the cases of the most severe damage.) LCL tears or sprains are relatively common injuries among physically active individuals. Treatment of an LCL tear will usually include resting the ligament by keeping as much weight off it as possible, icing, elevation and compression.
The LCL connects the thigh bone to the lower leg bone. Its main function is to keep the knee from bending outward, so LCL injuries tend to be the result of blows to the inside of the knee. They also tend to be caused by sudden changes in the direction of movement. Sports that require lots of stopping and starting can also cause this injury. As a result, LCL tears tend to be associated with sports like football, soccer or basketball. In general, these injuries, like ACL ones, tend to happen to athletes.
Symptoms Of An LCL Injury
The main symptoms of an LCL tear or sprain are:
Pain, swelling and tenderness on the outside of the knee, where the LCL is located;
Bruising around the knee in some cases;
A feeling as though the knee cannot support the patient’s weight, or is “giving way”;
The supports below may help to reduce the risk of this type of injury. For those who have already experienced the injury, these supports may stabilize the injured ligament. This will help to increase the chances of a full recovery. Please note that the we recommend that you obtain the advice of a physician in choosing an appropriate support.
Treatment Of An LCL Injury
If your doctor determines that you have suffered an LCL tear or sprain, he or she may recommend that you reduce your activity level, ideally by staying home and keeping weight off your knee.The patient may be asked to consider using crutches when he or she is moving around, in order to further reduce the load on the knee and LCL.
Your doctor may also recommend:
Use of an ice pack to reduce the knee pain, swelling and inflammation of your LCL tear or sprain;
Using an elastic bandage of knee sleeve to apply some compression to your knee; and
Keeping your knee elevated above the level of your heart as much as possible;
Wearing a knee support like one of those below to provide additional support to a torn LCL and to allow it to rest.
In addition to these measures, your doctor may refer you to a physiotherapist who can compile a list of stretching and range of motion exercises. Following this exercise program during the recovery phase will help to ensure your knee recovers its original function.
The time to recovery from an LCL injury varies depending on the severity of the injury. If the injury is of Grade 1 (mild) severity, regular activity may be resumed in approximately 3-4 weeks. A moderate or Grade 2 injury may require 8-12 weeks to heal. The recovery period from the most severe LCL injury may be similar but only if the patient wears a hinged knee brace for additional knee support. In these cases, surgery may also be necessary to repair the LCL tear. Of course, if there is also damage to other knee ligaments (especially the ACL) that will increase the recovery time.