The lateral collateral ligament’s main function is to resist force when the foot is grounded and the knee is twisted medially. LCL is a cord-like ligament located on the outer side of the knee. It is one of the major ligaments in the body that helps in stabilizing the knee joint. It attaches itself to the fibula, femoris tendon, and lateral femoral epicondyle. LCL can undergo tear when subjected to mechanical stress. According to orthopedic experts, 2% of the total population suffering from a knee injury are those who suffer from ligament tear.
What Causes LCL Tear?
LCL tear can occur due to:
- Knee twisted medially to resist the external force on the tibia bone.
- When the varus force is high for the ligament to withstand, the ligament overstretched leading to a tear.
- Playing high mobility sports like football, basketball, hockey, skiing, etc. that involve quick landing.
- Aging and ligament-losing elasticity can also result in an LCL tear.
In LCL tear, the knee is not damaged but the ligament is badly hurt.
What are the Common Symptoms of LCL Tear?
The common symptoms of LCL are:
- Unstable knee
- Locking or catching in the joint during movement
- The foot becomes numb and knee becomes stiff
- Mild acute or chronic pain around the knee
- Swelling and tenderness around the knee
How to Diagnose LCL Tear?
LCL related injuries are classified into three grades namely
- Grade 1- A simple LCL tear that comes with tenderness and minor pain around the injury site.
- Grade 2- The LCL is torn but not completely worn out. The knee becomes loose when moved by hand along with pain tenderness and swelling.
- Grade 3- The LCL is completely torn along with a possibility of an ACL tear. The knee opens up when moved and excruciating pain will be observed at the injury site along with swelling and tenderness.
What are the Available Treatments?
The LCL injury can be treated with physiotherapy or at times it can require surgery. The physiotherapy treatment includes:
- Techniques to reduce inflammation and pain
- Normalize the motion around k
- Strengthen the muscle core around the knee
- Improve knee cap alignment
- Work on posture and gait
- Minimize the re-injury chances
- Introduce warm-up exercises before walking, running, squatting, hopping, and landing
If the ligament tear is of grade 3, it cannot be fixed without surgery. Knee corrective surgery can be open surgery or arthroscopic. Post-surgery rehabilitation takes weeks to months. Many times, wearing a brace that allows the knee to move forward and backward but restricts side-to-side movements helps LCL injuries to recover faster.
Injuries like LCL tear happen mainly while playing sports. Hence, guards and gears are mandatory while playing sports. Therefore, one should strengthen their knee and build elasticity and agility to reduce the probability of LCL tear. In case if one has experienced an LCL sprain, they should consult their orthopedic doctor/surgeon and get clearance to play the game with full fitness.