Knee Ligament Injuries

What are Knee Ligament Injuries?

Ligaments are rope-like tissues that hold the bones together and keep your knee stable.

The knee has 4 main ligaments:

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL): It is located in the middle of the knee in the front. The ACL keeps the tibia (shinbone) from moving forward on the femur (thighbone).
  • Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL): It is located in the middle of the knee in the back. It keeps the tibia (shinbone) from moving backward on the femur (thighbone).
  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL): It is located on the inside (medial) part of the knee It prevents the knee from buckling inward.
  • Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL): It is located on the outside part of the knee. It prevents the knee from buckling outward.

Injuries to the knee can cause these ligaments to tear. This can occur from an injury where there was direct contact to the knee. Most often, this occurs during sports where there is a sudden stop, jump, change of direction, or an awkward landing. A torn ligament may cause your knee to feel loose or unstable. At times, knee injuries will cause injury to more than one of these ligaments at a time.

What are The Symptoms of Knee Ligament Injuries?

Common symptoms of knee ligament injuries are:

  • Hearing or feeling a “pop” in the knee when you got hurt.
  • Immediate knee pain after an injury.
  • Swelling.
  • Feeling like the knee isn’t stable.
  • Inability to bear weight on the injured side.

How are Knee Ligament Injuries Treated?

Knee ligament injuries may or may not need surgery. The treatment depends on which ligament is torn, how severe the injury, and your desired lifestyle.

Treatment By Type Of Knee Ligament Injury

ACL Tear: A torn ACL won’t heal without reconstruction surgery. If you’re an athlete who wants to return to sport, you’ll need surgery to rebuild your ACL, along with physical therapy (rehabilitation) before and after surgery. ACL reconstruction surgery replaces your torn ACL and makes your knee stable. Sometimes people with ACL injuries can manage without surgery if they do not participate in high-level sports that have limited jumping, pivoting, or changing of directions.

MCL Tear: MCL injuries can heal without surgery. When the MCL is torn in combination with other knee ligament injuries, the knee might need temporary immobilization to allow the torn MCL fibers to heal. If you undergo an ACL reconstruction, superficial cuts can be made to the MCL at the time of ACL reconstruction to stimulate healing.

PCL Tear: PCL injuries can heal without surgery. Our research has shown that the PCL can heal with some laxity (looseness) and still have good results without surgery.

LCL Tears: LCL tears are rare and usually occur in conjunction with injury to other structures of the knee. Lateral side knee injuries require surgery to establish stability is combined with other ligament tears. If the LCL tears in isolation, non-surgical treatment may suffice.

The decision of how to treat your injury will be discussed with you at your appointment.