The word ligament is used so often that it gets used for almost any injured area. However, there are many different types of ligaments in our bodies which are in charge of a lot of different things and whichever ligament is injured can lead to some serious problems. LCL and LCL injuries are not uncommon either. The LCL is one of the most common injuries seen in athletes and is caused by overuse or excessive ankle movement.
The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is the thickest of the four major ligaments that stabilize the knee. LCL injuries are common in sports that involve cutting, pivoting and twisting movements. They are also common in car accidents.
The LCL is located on the outside of the knee joint, just below the femur or thighbone. It runs from the top of the femur to the top of the fibula (both are long bones in your leg). The LCL works with other ligaments and muscles to keep your knee stable during movement.
The LCL helps prevent excessive motion in the outer part of your knee joint. This helps keep proper alignment between your lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) and upper leg bone (femur).
Women tend to tear their LCLs more often than men do because they have wider hips than men do. This causes them to have greater range of motion in their knees, which can increase their risk for injury.
If you have an LCL tear, it will cause your knee to feel unstable and painful when you try to bend or straighten it. You might also hear a snapping sound or feel a pop when you move your knee too far. The pain may be worse with certain activities like squatting and bending forward at your waist.
The most common injury associated with this ligament is an LCL sprain. An LCL sprain occurs when you twist or rotate your knee outwards and stretch or tear this ligament. If you play sports such as football, basketball, soccer or skiing, there is a high risk of injuring your LCL.
The most common cause of an LCL injury is a sudden twist or turn of the leg that puts too much stress on this ligament. This can occur during a sports activity like football or soccer, while playing basketball, or while skiing downhill at high speed.
LCL injuries are common among athletes who participate in contact sports like football or soccer, where contact with another player often causes trauma to the ligament. These injuries also occur frequently in non-contact sports such as basketball or gymnastics because they involve sudden twisting motions that put extra pressure on this ligament.
Symptoms of an LCL injury include:
- Pain directly over the lateral side of the knee joint
- Tenderness when pressing into the outer aspect of the knee joint
- Limited range of motion in bending and straightening your knee joint
- A popping sensation or feeling like something has slipped out of place (the pop should be treated with ice and rest)
- Increased pain with bending, squatting or kneeling and sometimes during jogging or running
The best way to avoid an LCL injury is to strengthen your hips and quadriceps muscles. You should also stretch regularly to keep your muscles flexible and strong. If you’re suffering from an LCL injury, it’s important not to rush back into activity too quickly—that could cause more damage!
-Use proper form when lifting weights or doing exercises that require you to bend your knees. Lift with your legs and keep your back straight.
-Don’t run with your knees locked, which causes the LCL to overstretch and become injured.
-When playing sports or participating in activities where you might fall, wear knee pads or other protective gear that covers the upper part of your leg.
Treatment for an LCL injury will depend on how severe it is and how long you have been dealing with the problem. In most cases there are two options: physical therapy and surgery.
Rest: You should rest, ice your knee, take over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen, and elevate your leg above heart level as much as possible to reduce swelling.
Physical therapy: Physical therapy may help you strengthen muscles around your knee joint and improve movement in your knee joint after surgery or when you have an LCL tear that doesn’t heal well on its own (chronic).
Elevate: Elevating the injured leg above heart level will help reduce swelling and pain (this is called “ice therapy”). You can do this by propping your leg up on pillows when sitting up or lying down. You can also use an ice pack if available, but be sure not to apply ice directly onto skin—instead wrap it in cloth first so as not to cause frostbite!
Compression: Wrapping an elastic bandage around the injured area will help support any damaged ligaments while they heal. The wrap should be firm but not too tight.