Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) sprain
A lateral ligament sprain is an injury to the outside of the knee that occurs because of a tear to the ligament.
The major cause of a LCL sprain is a direct force/blow to the inside of the knee. This force to the inside of the knee causes the lateral collateral ligament of the knee to tear (sprain).
Depending on the injury, symptoms can vary from being mild to more serious, with a complete rupture of the ligament. The sprains can be either grade 1, 2 or 3.
- Grade 1: Symptoms in this grade include tenderness over the ligament on the outside of the knee. In most cases, there is little or no swelling. Pain is felt, though no joint laxity when the knee is bent to 30 degrees and force is applied to the inside of the knee.
- Grade 2: Injury in this grade will be tender on the outside of the knee over the lateral ligament. This grade will experience some swelling over the ligament, pain and some laxity in the joint.
- Grade 3: Injury in this grade will be a complete tear of the ligament. Pain in this grade can be experienced less than pain in grade two. Stressing the knee will reveal significant joint laxity.
Immediate first aid
- Apply R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
- Apply a cold pack for 10 – 15 minutes every hour after initial injury.
- Wear a knee support or compression bandage to reduce swelling. Wearing a support will be most effective for grade two and three injuries.
Wear a hinged knee brace
A hinged knee, from a knee support, prevents sideways movement of the joint to protect the knee while healing. Knee supports are recommended for grade two and three injuries to restrict movement or bending while the joint is healing.
A chiropractor or physiotherapist may use an ultrasound in the early stages to treat by controlling pain and swelling.
Taping will support and protect the injured area. Taping can be done when the injury occurs or at later stages when returning to physical activity and training.
Taping technique should be considered as certain ways of taping can provide more support than cheaper hinged knee braces. Maintaining and re-applying tape is important when tape effectiveness reduces over time and stretches.
In most instances isolated MCL tears will require immediate exercises to take place very soon after the injury for the best results to be achieved long term with rehabilitation. Exercises in the first phase of rehabilitation will be to recovery any lost mobility especially in the extension plane.
Massage is effective treatment during the rehabilitation program. In the early acute stages, direct massage to the injury tissue should be avoided. When the ligament begins to heal, light cross friction massage may be used.