There are four ligaments in the knee out of which the lateral collateral ligament is crucial for providing stability. Injury to this ligament is a very common occurrence that can affect optimal knee functioning. As such, it becomes important for athletes and others to be aware of some notable torn ligament in knee symptoms.
What happens in an LCL injury?
The lateral collateral ligament or LCL runs along the outside of the knee joint. Any partial or complete tear of the ligament can seriously impair movement and result in disability in more severe cases.
Depending on the nature of the injury, LCL injuries can be graded into the following categories:
Grade I injuries: Only a minimal amount of fibers get torn resulting in some pain and the individual can still utilize full functioning of the knee.
Grade II injuries: These injuries involve a greater amount of fiber tearing and impair knee function more severely.
Grade III injuries: These serious injuries result in rupturing all the fibers in the knee. The knee becomes severely destabilized and knee mobility/ function is significantly reduced. Grade III injuries may also lead to other complications in the knee area.
Symptoms of an LCL injury
The symptoms of a torn ligament in the knee can range from being very mild to extremely severe. Symptoms are dictated by the severity of the sprain or if the ligament gets torn completely. While mild sprains may not present any noticeable symptoms, partial or complete tears can result in the following:
- Swelling of the knee
- Stiffness of knee joint
- Soreness or pain on the outside of the knee
- Instability of knee joint
- Reduced mobility in the area
Swollen knee treatment
Occasionally an LCL injury may happen due to strenuous activity when a lot of pressure is placed on this ligament. Possible scenarios could be a sudden shift in movement putting too much weight on the knee or extending it too far.
In the case of minor injuries, the individual may still be able to pursue regular activity but may experience some stiffness and swelling in the knee. Since both grade I and grade II injuries to the LCL do not involve complete ligament tearing, they may be treated successfully using non-operative techniques.
Typical treatment options will include rest, compression, and cryotherapy with the aim of minimizing the pain and the associated swelling. Injury recovery accessories like a knee brace may be recommended.
Other options include taking pain relievers, keeping the knee elevated and limiting physical activity until the associated discomfort goes away.
Therapy will also involve a range of motion exercises to prevent joint stiffness and to keep the ligaments mobile. For such minor injuries, complete recovery time may take up to six weeks.
Severe LCL injuries, on the other hand, result in a complete tear and require surgical intervention to reconstruct the damaged ligament.
However, surgery is not usually recommended for treating LCL injuries in isolation. The LCL in these cases is often injured along with other ligaments in the knee to necessitate a surgical procedure.