The four main stabilising ligaments in the knee that connect the thighbone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia) are the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and lateral collateral ligament (LCL).
The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is the main supporting ligament on the outside of the knee. This ligament holds the bones together to provide stability to the joint when the knee is pushed outward.
A lateral collateral ligament injury involves stretching or tearing of this ligament and is usually caused by force to the inside of the knee. This injury often occurs when participating in sports, but it can also be brought on by overuse of the joint or, in the case of an elderly person, a fall.
There are three degrees of an LCL injury:
Mild stretching of the ligament with no looseness
Partial tear of the ligament
The ligament is completely torn, and the joint is unstable
- Discomfort on the outside of the knee when tension is applied
- Pain and swelling on the outside of the knee
- Tenderness when the area over the affected ligament is touched
- Weakness of the knee
Your doctor would first question your general health and symptoms before conducting a thorough physical examination.
Diagnosis is made based on your reported symptoms, physical examination, and investigations.
In order to assess your knee function, your doctor ask you to move your knee in different directions. Imaging tests such as X-ray, MRI, and CT scan may also be done.
Treatment for MCL injuries include non-surgical and surgical options, depending on the extent of injury:
- R.I.C.E.: Rest, ice, compression with an ace bandage and elevation of the leg.
- A brace for a few days to immobilise the knee.
- Crutches, which may be helpful until movement and strength in the joint have improved.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain and inflammation.
- Knee exercises to regain flexibility in the joint and strength in the thigh muscle; physiotherapy may be useful.
- Surgery may be needed if the injury is severe, for example if the ligament has been torn and the knee is unstable.
If you suspect you might have an LCL injury, get in touch with us to find out more about our Orthopaedic Services at your nearest Gleneagles Hospital.
Gleneagles Hospital works with orthopaedic specialists to assist patients through diagnosis and treatment. The caring and multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals are available for consultation and to provide the best care.