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Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Injury

  • What is Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Injury?

    The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is the main supporting ligament on the outside of the knee. It provides stability to the joint when the knee is pushed outward. An LCL injury involves the stretching or tearing of this ligament.

    There are 3 degrees of lateral collateral ligament injury:

    • First-degree injury – mild stretching of the ligament with no looseness
    • Second-degree injury – partial tear of the ligament
    • Third-degree injury – the ligament is completely torn and the joint is unstable
  • An LCL injury is usually caused by a force to the inside of the knee. This often happens during sports but can also be caused by an overuse of the joint or by a fall if the person is elderly.

  • Symptoms include:

    • Discomfort on the outside of the knee when tension is applied
    • Pain and swelling on the outside of the knee
    • Tenderness when the area at the affected ligament is touched
    • Weakness in the knee
  • Treatment is likely to include:

    • A brace for a few days to limit movement of the knee
    • Crutches may help until movement and strength in the joint have improved
    • Physiotherapy knee exercises to regain flexibility in the joint and strength in the thigh muscle
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain
    • RICE treatment – Rest, ice, compression with an elastic bandage and elevation (lifting) of the affected leg

    Surgery may be needed if the injury is severe, eg. if the ligament is completely torn and the knee is unstable.

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