Lateral Collateral Ligament Injury

What is a lateral collateral ligament injury?

A lateral collateral ligament injury is an injury to one of the ligaments in your knee. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect one bone to another to form the joints. The lateral collateral ligament is on the outer side of your knee and attaches your thighbone to the outside bone in your lower leg. The ligaments in your knee keep your knee and leg bones in place when you walk or run. When a ligament is injured, it can be stretched, partially torn, or completely torn. Complete tears make the knee joint very loose and unstable.

A ligament injury is also called a sprain.

What is the cause?

Lateral collateral ligament injuries can happen if you are hit on the inner side of your knee. A twisting of the leg and knee can also cause this injury.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • A loud, painful pop at the time of the injury
  • Pain, swelling, and tenderness on the outer side of your knee
  • A feeling like your knee is loose or unstable

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history and examine you. You may have X-rays or other scans or procedures, such as:

  • An ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show pictures of your knee joint
  • An MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of your knee joint

How is it treated?

You will need to change or stop doing the activities that cause pain until the ligament has healed.

Your provider may wrap an elastic bandage around your knee to keep the swelling from getting worse. You may need to keep your knee in a knee immobilizer and use crutches to protect your knee while you heal.

If your ligament is completely torn, you may need surgery to repair the tear.

Your healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to help you heal.

The pain often gets better within a few weeks with self-care, but some injuries may take several months or longer to heal. It’s important to follow all of your healthcare provider’s instructions.

How can I take care of myself?

To keep swelling down and help relieve pain for the first few days after the injury:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on your knee every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Keep your knee up on a pillow when you sit or lie down.
  • Take nonprescription pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Read the label and take as directed. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take an NSAID for more than 10 days.

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions, including any exercises recommended by your provider. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent a lateral collateral ligament injury?

Warm-up exercises and stretching before activities can help prevent injuries. For example, do exercises that build strong thigh and hamstring muscles and stretch your leg muscles.

Follow safety rules and use any protective equipment recommended for your work or sport. For example, if you ski, be sure your ski bindings are set correctly by a trained professional so that they will release if you fall.

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Published by RelayHealth.
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