Your lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is a narrow and strong ligament on the outside (lateral aspect) of the knee. It attaches to the top of the shin bone (tibia) to the bottom of the thigh bone (femur) at the knee. It resists forces and impact to the inside of the knee (varus forces). As impact from sports and physical activities usually occur to the outside of the knee and not the inside, LCL injuries are the least common of the four knee ligaments injuries. These ligaments are:
- Anterior cruciate ligament
- Posterior cruciate ligament
- Medial collateral ligament
- Lateral collateral ligament
What causes a lateral collateral ligament injury?
When a ligament is excessively strained, it develops microtears and is damaged. Often this results from excess force to the inside of the knee and from various twisting motions at the legs and knees. Causes include:
Trauma to the inside of the knee, such as getting hit with a ball or from a tackle
Sudden changes in direction, especially during fast-paced activities
Sharp twists at the knee while the foot is fixed on the ground
Those with muscle weakness, ligament laxity or previous knee injuries are have an increased likelihood of sustaining an MCL injury.
What are the symptoms?
The different levels of severity of injury include a ligament sprain, a partial tear, or a complete rupture. Symptoms can include:
- Pain and tenderness at the outer knee
- A ‘snapping’ or ‘popping’ sound as the injury occurs
- Feeling unstable, like the knee is giving way
- Difficulty walking on the affected leg
- Catching at the knee joint
How are LCL injuries treated?
When the injury first occurs, it’s important to stop physical activity and avoid walking on the affected knee where possible. Resting, elevating and icing the knee can help reduce the initial pain and swelling. You may be referred for an ultrasound, x-ray or MRI imaging if it is suspected that you’ve ruptured your MCL. This may require surgery.
Under the care of our expert podiatrists, we’ll work to:
- Optimise conditions for the knee to heal
- Rebuild strength in and around the knee
- Restore your movement at the knee joint (this will likely be restricted following your injury)
- Depending on the cause, aim to reduce the likelihood of this injury recurring in the future
To achieve this, we may:
- Use orthotics to control motion at the feet and legs
- Assessing the stability of your footwear and make recommendations if your current footwear is hindering your recovery
- Teaching you how to strap your knee during your recovery
- Use a knee brace
- Use physical therapy exercises to improve strength and flexion in and around the knee
Every treatment plan is tailored specifically to you, your symptoms, circumstances and assessment findings. Our goal is always to deliver the best outcomes for you so you can achieve your goals and realise your full potential.