Lateral Collateral Ligament Injury
The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is the stabilizing ligament that runs along the outside of the knee joint. As with every knee injury, injury to the LCL is more likely in sports that involve lots of pivoting, rapid decelerating, and jumping. This includes soccer, hockey, skiing, football, or basketball. As a sports specific clinic, MOTUS regularly treats athletes that have experienced one or more types of knee ligament injuries.
An LCL injury ranges in severity from grade I (sprain), grade II (partially ruptured), and grade III (completely ruptured). This is the case for all four of the ligaments that support the knee joint. The system of ligaments work together, and so with an LCL injury we sometimes see additional damage to one or more of the other ligaments as well.
The LCL is meant to resist varus stress to the knee — that is, a force that pushes the knee out from the inside of the joint. Only 25% of emergency room patients with a knee injury are dealing with collateral ligament injuries, and of the two collateral ligaments an LCL is less commonly injured. Still, as you can imagine, sports like football and hockey pose plenty of opportunities for direct-force trauma to the inside of the knee. As such, it’s important for athletes to be aware of the possibility and work to develop training and rehabilitation that will protect the LCL and other ligaments in the knee.
In many cases, an LCL injury will happen along with an ACL, PCL, or MCL injury. Injury may also occur with a knee dislocation. After an LCL injury, athletes might notice swelling and pain in the lateral joint line. During diagnosis, your physical therapist may try the varus stress test, which applies gentle stress to the LCL. Pain during this test is a sign of an LCL injury.
Most LCL injuries can be treated with conservative measures. We may start by treating the knee with hot and cold therapy, compression, or Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation. As your healing progresses, you’ll need to work on building up your strength and range of motion in the knee.
Ultimately, we’ll lead you to work on strengthening and loading throughout the entire kinetic chain. At MOTUS, we pride ourselves on being movement specialists. We see the body as a whole, and respect the fact that the status of each joint affects the others. We will take your rehabilitation further than just addressing the LCL injury. We want to both resolve your pain now, and help you work towards healthier movements in your sport for the future.