LCL Tear (Lateral Collateral Ligament)

What is the Lateral Collateral Ligament ?

 The lateral collateral ligament, also known as the LCL, is a small band of fibrous tissue running along the outside of the knee. The LCL can be compared to the size width of a # 2 pencil. It connects the top thigh bone to the outside of the lower leg bone. It's like a tough piece of gristle.

Ligaments of the KneeLigaments of the Knee 

Why is the LCL Important at the knee?

The LCL helps to control the side to side motion of your knee and also acts as a natural brace against unusual movements at the knee.  The knee sprain recovery time will vary depending on if other structures of the knee have injuries. 

How is the LCL Usually Injured?

Typically, but not always, the LCL injury occurs more with sports activity. Examples such as football and hockey with direct contact or basketball /soccer where there are quick turning movements.

JOI Rehab LCL TearLCL or Lateral Collateral Ligament Tear 

How Do You Tear the LCL?

The LCL is usually injured by: 

  • Direct blow to inside of knee
  • Fast direction changes with foot in place
  • Landing unevenly from jumping

Symptoms of an LCL Tear

  • Pain at outside of knee
  • Pain with direct touch at outside of knee
  • Goose egg swelling at outside of knee
  • limited ability to bend knee
  • sensation of catching/locking
  • Bruised appearance at outside of knee
  • Issue with walking or putting normal weight through leg

Grades of LCL Sprains or Tears

These type of LCL injuries are classified as sprains and graded on a severity scale.

  • Grade 1: Minimal damage and only slightly stretched without instability
  • Grade 2: Partial tear of the LCL. The ligament is loose and more damaged with instability
  • Grade 3: Unstable with major damage with the LCL torn in half or stretched off the bone.

How do I Treatment For the Different Grades of an LCL Injury?

Grade 1 LCL Sprain

  • - Crutches until able to walk normal(short period)
  • - Hinged brace
  • - Physical therapy(short duration)
  • - Return to activity in about 1 month

Grade 2 LCL Sprain

  • - Crutches until able to walk normal (about 3-4 weeks)
  • - Hinged brace
  • - Physical therapy(longer protective phase)
  • - Return to normal activity in about 8-12 weeks

Grade 3 LCL Sprain

  •  - Crutches and limited weight bearing for at least 6 weeks
  •  - Hinged brace
  •  - Physical Therapy (more controlled acute phase)
  •  - Return to activity usually around 3 months

The good news is that even with a grade 3 LCL sprain, surgery is usually not required unless another major knee ligament has been injured as well, such as a torn ACL.

Can You Fully Recover From an LCL Tear?

With proper recovery time and rehabilitation, most people can fully recover from and LCL tear and return to sport and activity.  It takes time, patience, hard work, and dedication with Rehab. 

Related Links:

If you have a knee injury or are concerned about and LCL Tear, the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute can help. To schedule an appointment with a JOI Orthopedic Knee Doctor, call (904)JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below. To see a JOI Rehab Therapist in 1 of our 12 locations, call (904)858-7045.

By: Jared Ernest, MPT

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