What is the Worst Knee Ligament to Tear?

By: Drew Heideman PT ATC

What is the Worst Knee Ligament to Tear?


The quick answer is that the ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) is most likely to be considered the worst ligament in the knee to tear. It is also the most common ligament to tear in the knee (over 100,000/year) The ACL is a ligament that helps stabilize the knee by limiting the movement of the lower leg, keeping it from sliding forward and limiting hyperextension of the knee.  When the ACL tears, the knee typically becomes very swollen and unstable.  The ACL can be torn with forceful trauma to the knee or and forceful twisting motion to the knee.  It is more common with contact sports but is also seen commonly with sports with a lot of direction changes.

An ACL tear is considered the worst and most common ligament to tear or injure in the knee. ACL tear

What are the Ligaments in the Knee?

There are 4 major ligaments in the knee.

  1. ACL Anterior Cruciate Ligament
  2. PCL Posterior Cruciate Ligament
  3. MCL Medial Collateral Ligament
  4. LCL Lateral Collateral Ligament

To learn more about ligament injuries, go to our article on Ligament Injuries.

Tearing the MCL (Medial Collateral Ligament) and the LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) is not as common as tearing the ACL.  If you do tear the MCL and LCL, it is more common to be treated conservatively with therapy and bracing but surgical repair is sometimes necessary.  With an ACL tear, in young people or active older adults, surgical repair is typically necessary after an ACL tear.  The biggest issue with a surgical repair is that it takes about 9 months to rehabilitate afterwards.  Most people would agree that the ACL ligaments is the worst ligament to tear in the knee.

ACL vs. PCL Tear

Tearing the PCL (Posterior Cruciate Ligament) is not as common but also usually requires surgical repair.  If not, the knee can become unstable and cause increased force to the knee cap.  This can lead to excessive abnormal wear and tear to the knee joint surfaces.   A severe trauma injury to knee can result in tearing more than one ligament in the knee. This may require more than one surgery to repair.

If you want to learn more about the knee anatomy, go to this Knee Video.


How do you Treat a Ligament Tear in the Knee?

Image of a woman walking with crutches in physical therapy with a PT following ligament repair in the knee. Woman in physical therapy for an ACL tear

Conservative treatment would include Physical Therapy can help with treating knee ligament tears, or other related injuries.  Physical therapy may include strength training and stretching.  It is important to regain full range of motion of the knee.  

If you are experiencing  pain or have sustained trauma to the knee, it is important to be properly evaluated. 

If you want to learn more about knee pain, go to: https://www.joionline.net/trending/content/knee-pain

ASAP appointments and Telemedicine visits are available.


If you need an appointment with an Orthopedic Knee Specialist, call (904)JOI-2000, schedule online, or click below. 

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