An LCL injury is a sprain or tear to the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). The LCL is a band of tissue on the outside of your knee. It connects your thighbone to the bone of your lower leg and helps keep the knee from bending outward.
You can hurt your LCL during activities that involve bending, twisting, or a quick change of direction. For example, the LCL can be injured in football or soccer when the inside of the knee is hit. This type of injury can also occur during skiing and in other sports with lots of stop-and-go movements, jumping, or weaving.
An injury to your LCL may cause:
The doctor will examine you and ask questions about your past health. He or she will also ask how you injured your knee and about your symptoms at the time you injured it.
Your doctor will carefully examine your knee and leg. He or she will look and feel to see if there is swelling and may gently push on certain places to find spots that are most tender. Then your doctor will move your knee and leg in certain ways to help check for stability. He or she will also look at the rest of your leg to make sure that blood is flowing, the leg works well, and there are no other injuries above or below the knee.
You may have some tests, such as an X-ray, an MRI, or an ultrasound.
Most LCL injuries can be treated at home with:
Your doctor may suggest that you use crutches to limit how much weight you put on your leg. He or she may also suggest that you wear a brace that protects and supports the knee but allows for some movement.
You may need to be less active for a while. But doing gentle stretching and range-of-motion exercises as advised by your doctor will help you heal.
A severe tear may need surgery. But this usually isn't done unless you also injure other parts of your knee, such as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or meniscus.
Your treatment will depend on how severe your injury is and whether other parts of your knee are injured.
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to increase range of motion and strengthen your muscles.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
Other Works ConsultedLento P, et al. (2015). Collateral ligament sprain. In WR Frontera et al., eds., Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 3rd ed., pp. 339-343. Philadelphia: Saunders.McMahon PJ, et al. (2014). Sports medicine. In HB Skinner, PJ McMahon, eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Orthopedics, 5th ed., pp. 88-155. New York: McGraw-Hill.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerPatrick J. McMahon, MD - Orthopedic Surgery
Current as ofMarch 21, 2017
Current as of:
March 21, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Patrick J. McMahon, MD - Orthopedic Surgery
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Last modified on: 8 September 2017