What is a knee ligament injury?
A ligament is a strong band of connective tissue which attaches bone to bone. A knee ligament injury can occur in one or a combination of ligaments. The main knee ligaments are:
- ACL: Anterior Cruciate Ligament
- PCL: Posterior Cruciate Ligament
- MCL: Medial Collateral Ligament
- LCL: Lateral Collateral Ligament
These ligaments give the knee stability and prevent excessive twisting, and side to side movements. A ligament injury or tear is a relatively common sporting injury affecting the knee. A tear may range from a small partial tear resulting in minimal pain, to a complete rupture resulting in significant pain and disability.
What causes a knee ligament injury?
Knee ligament tears typically occur during activities placing excessive strain on the ligaments. This generally occurs suddenly due to a specific incident. Occasionally it may occur due to repetitive strain. There are two main movements that place stress on the ligaments, these include:
- twisting of the knee
- valgus force (side impact on knee)
When these movements are excessive an injury may occur. Ligament tears are frequently seen in contact sports or sports requiring rapid changes in direction. These include rugby, football, netball, basketball and downhill skiing. The usual mechanism of injury is a twisting movement when weight-bearing (especially when landing from a jump). With a valgus force injury is due to a collision to the outer knee. This forces the knee to bend in the wrong direction.
An injury may also occur due to repetitive activities such as the breaststroke kick in swimming. These type of occurrences are less frequent and develop gradually over time.
How to treat a knee ligament injury
Depending on the severity and complex nature of each individual case, knee ligament treatment can take may forms. In the most severe cases surgery is required and in all cases a program of rehabilitation is recommended. With the correct treatment and rehabilitation will enable you to return to normal activities. Treatments include: