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Knee Ligament Injuries: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What are knee ligament injuries?

Knee ligaments are the short bands of flexible, tough connective tissue that help in holding the knee together. Knee ligament injuries could be the result of trauma, like a car accident, or they could even be caused while playing a sport. A good example would be a twisting knee injury while skiing or playing basketball.

Overall the knee has 4 major ligaments. Ligaments help in connecting bones to each other and also give the joint strength and stability. The 4 knee ligaments connect the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone). They are:

  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) - This ligament is situated at the back of the knee and controls backward movement of the shin bone.

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) - This ligament is situated in the center of the knee and controls forward movement and rotation of the shin bone.

  • Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) - This ligament helps in providing stability to the outer knee.

  • Medial collateral ligament (MCL) - This ligament helps in providing stability to the inner knee.

What causes knee ligament injuries?

Cruciate ligaments

The ACL (Anterior cruciate ligament ) is one of the most common ligaments that gets injured. The ACL often gets torn or stretched while doing a sudden twisting motion. This is when the knees turn one way but the feet stay planted. Landing from a jump incorrectly or slowing down while running could result in ACL injuries. Football, basketball, and Skiing are sports that have a higher risk for ACL injuries.

The PCL is also amongst the common ligament to get injured in the knee. But a PCL injury usually occurs with a direct, sudden hit, like during a football tackle or in a car accident.

Collateral ligaments

The MCL gets injured more often when compared to the LCL. Tear and stretch injuries to the collateral ligaments are usually the result of a blow to the outer side of the knee. This can occur when playing football or hockey.

What are the symptoms of knee ligament injuries?

Cruciate injury

A cruciate ligament injury generally results in pain. You most likely will hear a popping sound when the injury occurs. Then when you try to stand on it, your leg buckles. The knee also starts to swell. You won’t be able to move your knee as you used to normally either. You might also feel pain when walking along with slight pain along the joint.

The symptoms of a cruciate ligament injury might look similar to other health conditions. Always meet with your orthopaedist for a diagnosis.

Collateral ligament injury

An injury to the collateral ligament could also result in the knee to pop and buckle. It also causes swelling and pain. Generally you can see swelling over the injury site and will feel pain at the sides of the knee. The pain is on the inside of the knee if it is an MCL injury. An LCL injury might result in pain on the outside of the knee. The knee might also feel unstable, like it is getting close to crumbling.

How are knee ligament injuries diagnosed?

Your orthopaedist will first enquire about your health history and also do a physical exam. You may require at least 1 or both of these tests:

  • MRI. This test makes use of radio waves, large magnets along with a computer to produce detailed images of structures and organs in the body. It often helps in finding disease or damage in bones and to surrounding muscles, tendons, or ligaments.

  • X-ray. This imaging test could help in ruling out an injury to bone instead of a ligament injury. It utilises energy beams in order to make images of internal organs, bones, and tissues on film.

How are knee ligament injuries treated?

Treatment will often depend on your general health, age, and symptoms. It might also depend on how severe the condition actually is. Treatment may include:

  • Ice pack to reduce swelling

  • Pain medicine

  • Protective knee brace

  • Exercises for muscle-strengthening

  • Surgery

Key points about knee ligament injuries

  • Knee ligaments refer to the short bands of elastic tissue that assist in holding the knee together. There are 4 major ligaments in each knee.

  • Knee ligament injuries could be the result of trauma, such as getting into a car accident, or they could even be caused by sports injuries.

  • The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is one of the most common reported ligaments to be prone to injury.

  • Treatment might include muscle-strengthening exercises, medicine, a knee brace, or surgery.

If you’re looking for an orthopedist in Bangalore for consultation with respect to knee ligament injury, you can get in touch with 1 Health Medical Center. Our expert Orthopedist will make the necessary observations, prescribe the right tests, and eventually use the test results to arrive at a treatment plan which will help you mitigate the problem.


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