Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Injury
The lateral collateral ligament, more commonly referred to as the LCL, is most often injured during contact sports when a direct blow to the inside of the knee stretches or tears the LCL as it is overextended on the outside of the knee. Injury to this ligament is much less common than to the medial collateral ligament (MCL) located on the inside of the knee joint. This is because the lateral collateral ligament is on the outside of the knee and the opposite leg often protects the inner knee from a blow or any trauma. As a result, most LCL injuries occur when the leg is outstretched in front of the body and the inner knee is left unprotected by the other leg.
Knee Ligament Anatomy
The Lateral Collateral Ligament is a round ligament located on the outside of the knee that lies beneath the tendon of the biceps femoris muscle.
This ligament joins the end of the fibula, which is located on the outside of the tibia (shin bone), and the bottom outside surface of the femur (thigh bone). Unlike the MCL, the LCL is not attached to either menisci in the knee and therefore, the menisci usually remain undamaged when the LCL is torn or stretched. The LCL becomes taut when the knee is extended and acts to stabilize the outside of the knee joint.
LCL Injury Symptoms
Sufferers of an LCL stretch or minor tear will experience mild tenderness with little swelling on the outside of the knee. More severe tears or ruptures result in pain directly over the ligament along the outside of the knee. Swelling is common and locking or catching of the knee may occur with movement and bending. Bruising will often appear 1-2 days after the injury occurs. A tear in the LCL ligament may also make the knee feel unstable or loose.
LCL Injury Causes
An injury to the Lateral Collateral Ligament occurs when there is a stretch, partial tear, or complete tear (rupture) to the ligament.
A blow to the inside of the knee during any number of contact sports is usually the cause of this injury. The force to the inside of the knee joint pushes the knee outward resulting in stress being placed on the ligament on the outside of the knee joint, the LCL. This stress or overextension causes the stretch or tear.
It is also possible that an injury to the LCL will occur in conjunction with injury to other ligaments in the knee depending on the amount of force the knee experiences.
LCL Injury Diagnosis
To diagnose an LCL tear and the extent of damage that has occured, your doctor will perform a variety of assessments:
- Palpation and Observation is often the first step in diagnosing. The joint will be examined for swelling, bruising and deformities. Next the doctor pressing lightly in the ligament area to check for the degree of tenderness, swelling and warmth. Some tenderness usually indicates a mild, or grade 1, sprain and acute pain indicates a more serious injury such as a tear.
- The doctor will also assess the range of motion at the knee. You will be asked to bend and straighten your knee and then the doctor will bend it for you to check for limitations due to pain and swelling.
- A Varus Stress Test is performed with the knee flexed to 30 degrees. The ankle is turned inward (adducted) while the knee is stabilized and force is applied to the inner knee. The amount of adduction that occurs in both the healthy knee and the injured knee are compared. If the knee joint turns inward more in the injured knee than the normal knee, an LCL tear is diagnosed.
- An MRI may also be recommended to view the severity of the tear.
LCL Injury Treatments - What You Can Do!
Like most sprains or tears to a ligament, immediate treatment of the LCL injury includes the application of cold compression and elevation of the knee. It is also important to allow the injured knee to rest.
Treatment differs from case to case depending on the degree of instability in the knee and the patient's activity level. Treating a lateral collateral ligament injury with rest, Cold Compression, and Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ will speed healing and improve the function of the knee so you can return to your normal activities. Once the LCL has improved and activities can be resumed, you will first want to build muscle strength in the leg under the guidance of a doctor or physical therapist.
If LCL surgery is required, using these therapies prior to surgery will reduce further damage and improve the health of the LCL and surrounding tissue so the surgery is less invasive.
Using these therapies after surgery will control pain and swelling, reduce tissue damage, speed healing and treat the scar tissue resulting from the surgery. As a result, you will have a healthier knee with a greater range of motion than if your LCL was left to heal on its own.
Cold Compression Therapy
Using Cold Compression immediately following a lateral collateral ligament tear reduces pain and swelling and reduces the amount of damage to the tissue that occurs with soft tissue injuries like ligament tears.
The Knee Freezie Wrap® allows you to treat yourself in an effective and convenient way following an LCL tear and after any further re-injury (which is common due to the instability of the knee).
Cold Compression Therapy works by interrupting and slowing nerve and cell function in the damaged area. This is important because once blood vessels are damaged they can no longer carry oxygenated blood to the damaged tissue and cells begin to break-down. The deep cold provided by the Knee Freezie Wrap® slows cell function thereby reducing cellular break-down. Furthermore, because the cold wrap serves to numb the nerves, it also reduces pain! The Knee Freezie Wrap® uses a deep cold gel pack with a medical-grade neoprene compression cover to keep the cold pack off your skin preventing cryoburn and to keep the cold in the area that you need it.
Once the inflammation and swelling of your LCL tear has been alleviated, nourishing and strengthening the ligament tissue is recommended. Using Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy will speed your recovery and heal your ligament more completely preparing it for leg strengthening exercises. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to find out which exercises are appropriate for your situation.
Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™
After the inflammation and swelling is gone you can begin to treat your LCL tear with Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy, or BFST. This therapy increases the amount of blood that flows naturally to your knee to nourish cartilage, tendons, ligaments and muscles to speed healing..
By treating yourself with Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy you can increase your body's blood supply to the knee and the natural healing power. In addition, the fresh blood flow whisks away dead cells and toxins that have built up from the injury leaving the area clean and able to heal faster. Our Knee Inferno Wrap provides effective, non-invasive, non-addictive pain relief and healing with no side effects.
During your recovery, you will probably have to modify and/or eliminate any activities that cause pain or discomfort in your knee area until your pain and inflammation settle.
With these 3 easy therapies you will notice incredible improvement in your knee. The more diligent you are with your treatment and rehabilitation, the faster you will see successful results!
We recommend that you consult your doctor and/or physiotherapist before using any of our outstanding products, to make sure they're right for you and your condition.
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To prevent knee injuries it is recommended that you gradually increase the intensity of any exercise or activity when you begin and to be aware of the movement of the knee during activity.
A knee that is supported by strong leg muscles is less prone to injury. Therefore, regular exercise and maintaining good physical condition, particularly when participating in sports such as football and rugby are also excellent ways to avoid ligament injuries. If your knee is unstable or weak, wearing a brace during exercise and activity can reduce the risk of reinjury of the ligament while your knee is regaining strength.