What is the LCL?
The LCL refers to the lateral collateral ligament of the knee. Ligaments are tough, flexible bands of tissues that hold bones together.
The LCL is located on the outside of the knee. It connects the top of the fibula to the outside of the thigh bone (femur). It is important for stability in the knee.
LCL injuries are usually caused by an injury that pushes the knee joint from the inside, which results in stress on the outside part of the joint. Some common mechanisms of injury include a direct blow to the knee, changes of direction, and landing awkwardly from a jump.
It is rare for the LCL to be injured in isolation, it usually occurs along with injuries to the other ligaments in the knee or a knee dislocation.
Signs and symptoms of LCL injuries
- Pain on the outside of the knee
- Swelling at the time of injury or quite soon afterwards
- Feelings of instability, as if the knee is going to “give way”
- Stiffness and reduced range of motion
- Locking or catching of the knee with movement
LCL injuries can be mild, moderate or severe. Most LCL injuries can be successfully treated conservatively without surgery. If it is torn in such a way that it cannot heal or is associated with other ligament tears, surgery may be recommended.
Treating LCL injuries
Initially after the injury, you should follow RICE principles. That is, rest, ice, compression and elevation. This will help reduce pain and swelling. Taking painkillers and anti-inflammatories will assist in pain relief.
If you are limping severely, you may initially require crutches to walk so that you can limit the amount of weight you put on your affected knee. A knee brace may also help to support the knee and give you some pain relief.
Physiotherapy will help to improve pain and swelling through soft tissue techniques and joint mobilisations. Ultrasound, ice or heat packs, and TENS can also be used to speed up your recovery. You will be prescribed an exercise program to help improve the strength and range of motion in your knee. Your exercises will be tailored towards the activity or sport that you are aiming to get back to.
If you require surgery, Physiotherapy helps to increase strength and range of motion post-operatively. Your Physiotherapist will liaise closely with your specialist throughout your rehabilitation.
Can I play sport with a torn LCL?
After injuring the LCL, you will usually need to take time off sport. You can continue to do low impact activities such as walking and swimming, as long as there is no pain or feelings of giving way.
Most people who have a low grade tear can return to their sport within 6 weeks. The more severe the injury, the longer you will have to rest before returning to high impact activity.
Your physiotherapist will guide you through a functional training program to ensure your knee is able to cope with the demands of your sport.
How to prevent LCL tears
Improving the strength, balance, and flexibility of your knee will ensure it is strong and stable to cope with the demands of your sport, lessening your chance of injury. A knee prevention program can be prescribed to you by your physiotherapist.
It is also important to learn proper techniques for jumping, landing, and changing direction while playing sport so that you are placing less stress on your knee. Your physiotherapist can assess how you perform these movements and provide feedback so that your knee is in the correct alignment.
If you are suffering from a LCL injury and would like some more information or advice, contact us! Give us a call on 9875 3760 or email email@example.com. We would be more than happy to help you. If you suspect you have injured your LCL, book an appointment so we can assess your knee to confirm the diagnosis and design a treatment plan to help you get back to the sport or activity that you love.