Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Injury

What is Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Injury?

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

There are three degrees of LCL 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 force to the inner side of the knee especially during exercises, but it can also occur due to overuse of the joint or a fall if the affected person is an elder.

Symptoms include:

  • Discomfort on the outside of the knee under tension
  • Pain and swelling on the outside of the knee
  • Tenderness upon touching the area over the affected ligament
  • Knee weakness

Common treatments include:

  • Bracing for a few days to immobilise the knee
  • Crutches, which may be helpful until movement and strength in the joint have improved
  • Knee exercises to regain flexibility in the joint and strength in the thigh muscle; physiotherapy may be useful
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) to relieve pain
  • Rest, ice, compression with an ace bandage and elevation of the leg (RICE)

Surgery may be necessary if the injury is severe, for example if the ligament has been torn and the knee is unstable.

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