About Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Tears
The lateral Collateral ligament (LCL) is an important ligament that checks the side to side sliding of the femur bone on the tibia bone in the knee. This ligament can be injured with sports or falls, especially with blows to the inside of the knee while the foot is planted on the ground.
The LCL can be sprained, which means it is still intact. If it is ruptured, it means it is completely broken. When an LCL injury involves a sprain, there is typically swelling that occurs in the knee and a feeling of instability with walking. Sprains are classified according to their severity with grades 1 through 3. Grades 1 and 2 are often treatable without surgery, while grade 3 is most often a complete tear and typically requires surgery.
With a sprain, the ligament is overstretched and micro-tearing results, causing pain and inflammation. There is little blood flow to the ligaments, and they get most of their nutrition from the joint fluid. This means that their healing is a lot slower than most other tissues. Depending on the severity of the sprain and joint stability, the potential for future injury can increase.
With grade 3 LCL tears, surgery is most likely needed to repair. Physical therapy is vital to rehabilitation after this surgery. Recovery does take time, and the goal is to protect the surgery site and maintaining stability while getting back into walking and eventually running.
How physical therapy helps
Our physical therapists work with patients of all ages, especially those who have sustained LCL tears through sports activities. We work closely with your physician to examine the stability of your knee after the LCL injury. There are specific tests that we perform to assess how stable the ligament is and what course of action is best to resolve your pain and return you to activities as soon as possible. Most grade 1 and grade 2 sprains can be rehabilitated without the need for surgery, and our physical therapists will discuss your options.
If surgery is needed for your recovery, rest assured that you are in the right hands for your rehabilitation. We work closely with your physician’s rehabilitation protocols. The priority is to manage your pain and swelling after surgery and gradually increasing your range of motion in the knee per your post-surgery protocol.