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The knee anatomy also include 4 major ligaments. These include:
There are many muscles and tendons in the knee region.
The ACL is the most commonly injured of the 4 major ligaments. The ACL provides internal stability and helps to prevent hyperextension and excessive rotation at the knee.
The PCL also provides internal stability. It helps to prevent the lower leg from sliding too far backwards in relation to the thigh.
The MCL runs from the inside portion of the lower thigh to the upper inside of the lower leg. It helps to keep the knee from collapsing inward.
The LCL runs form the outside portion of the lower thigh to the upper outside of the lower leg. It helps to keep the knee from collapsing outward.
Ligaments in the knee have a limited blood supply. This makes healing happen slowly. The severity of the tear also helps to determine the length of healing and recovery. In complete tears, surgery is often required to reconstruct the ligament. This is more common with the ACL and PCL.
An MCL tear typically heals without surgery in most cases. This may be due to an increased blood vessel response in the MCL after an injury.
When a ligament tears in the knee, swelling typically occurs quickly. Most of those with an injured knee ligament report that the knee popped. Swelling may be in the back of the knee, or around the knee cap. There is usually significant pain as well. Ligament tears in the knee usually involve trauma or a quick direction change with sports.
A physician or healthcare professional may perform stability tests to screen for a ligament tear. My attempting to move the knee in various directions, health professionals can determine if there is excessive movement, which may indicate a ligament tear. If there is suspicion of a ligament tear in the knee, an MRI is typically performed.
Surgery is not always need for a torn knee ligament, especially for partial tears. Depending on the severity, the MCL usually heels without surgery. Physical therapy and bracing may be needed.
ACL tears, which are the most common, usually require a surgical reconstruction if the ligament is completely torn. This is more common with younger athletes and younger to middle aged active adults. If the ACL is not reconstructed, the knee may remain unstable. This can lead to excessive wear and tear of the knee and early arthritis. It may also limit sporting activity such as skiing and tennis.
The PCL and LCL are less commonly torn but may require surgery to repair. This is dependent on severity of the tear.
If your tear is not severe enough to require surgery then you may be able to recover in 6 weeks or less by utilizing the RICE Protocol. If your tear requires surgical repair then it can take up to 9 months for a full recovery.
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