Brief Outline of Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Rupture
A ligament is tough, fibrous connective tissue that provides support and strength to joint. A lateral collateral ligament (LCL) rupture (as opposed to an MCL rupture) involves tearing or stretching of this ligament of the knee. This ligament is designed to hold the knee joint together on the lateral (outside) surface. Force applied to the inside of the knee causes the outside of the knee to open, stretching the LCL. The extent of the stretch determines whether the ligament simply stretches, tears partially, or tears completely. An LCL rupture is much less common than an MCL rupture.
Cause of lateral collateral ligament (LCL) rupture
Force applied to the medial side (inside) of the knee joint.
Signs and symptoms for lateral collateral ligament (LCL) rupture
Pain over the lateral portion of the knee. Swelling and tenderness. Instability in the knee and pain with weight bearing.
Complications if left lateral collateral ligament (LCL) rupture unattended
The ligament, in rare cases, may repair itself if left unattended, but the injury could develop into a more severe rupture. The pain in the knee and instability of the joint may not go away. Continued activity on the injured knee could lead to injuries of the other ligaments, due to the instability.
Immediate treatment for lateral collateral ligament (LCL) rupture
R.I.C.E. Immobilisation. Anti-inflammatory medication.
Rehabilitation and prevention for lateral collateral ligament (LCL) rupture
Depending on the severity of the rupture, simple rest and gradual introduction back to activity may be enough. For more severe ruptures, braces may be needed during the strengthening phase of rehabilitation and the early portion of the return to activity. The most severe ruptures may require extended immobilisation and rest from the activity. As range of motion and strength begins to return, stationary bikes and other equipment may be used to ease back into activity. Ensuring adequate strength in the thigh muscles, and conditioning before starting any activity where the risk of hits to the knee is high, will help prevent these types of injury.
Long-term prognosis and surgery
The ligament will usually heal with no limitations, although in some cases there is residual “looseness” in the lateral part of the knee. Very rarely is surgery required to repair the ligaments. Meniscus tearing that requires surgical repair may also result from an LCL rupture.