Knee Ligament Injuries

Knee Ligament Injuries

What is a Knee Ligament?

A ligament is a short band of tough fibrous connective tissue composed mainly of long, stringy collagen molecules. Ligaments connect bones to other bones in and around joints. They do not connect muscles to bones; that is the function of tendons. Ligaments limit the amount of mobility of a joint, or prevent certain movements altogether.

What Causes Knee Ligament Injuries?

You can injure a ligament through a sharp change in direction, landing wrong from a jump, or the most common a blunt force hit to the knee, such as in a football tackle. The incident usually needs to happen at speed. Muscle weakness or incoordination predispose you to a ligament sprain or tear.

Major Knee Ligaments

ACL: Anterior Cruciate Ligament
PCL: Posterior Cruciate Ligament
MCL: Medial Collateral Ligament
LCL: Lateral Collateral Ligament Coronary Ligament
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Symptoms & Severity of Knee Ligament Injuries?

The severity and symptoms of a ligament sprain depends on the degree of stretching or tearing of the ligament.

In a mild grade I sprain, the ligaments may stretch, but they don’t actually tear. Although the joint may not hurt or swell very much, a mild sprain can increase the risk of a repeat injury.

Grade I sprains usually heal within a few weeks. Maximal ligament strength will occur after six weeks when the collagen fibres have matured. Resting from painful activity, icing the injury, and some anti-inflammatory medications are useful. Physiotherapy will help to hasten the healing process via electrical modalities, massage, strengthening and joint exercises to guide the direction that the ligament fibres heal. This helps to prevent a future tear. A moderate grade II sprain, the ligament tears partially. Swelling and bruising are common, and use of the joint is usually painful and difficult.

When a grade II sprain occurs, use of a weight-bearing brace or some supportive taping is common in early treatment. This helps to ease the pain and avoid stretching of the healing ligament. After a grade II injury, you can usually return to activity once the joint is stable and you are no longer having pain. This may take up to six weeks. Physiotherapy helps to hasten the healing process via electrical modalities, massage, strengthening and joint exercises to guide the direction that the ligament fibres heal. This helps to prevent a future tear and quickly return you to your pre-injury status. With a severe grade III sprain, a ligament tears completely, causing swelling and sometimes bleeding under the skin. As a result, the joint is unstable and unable to bear weight. Often there will be no pain following a grade 3 tear as all of the pain fibres are torn at the time of injury.

When a grade III injury occurs, you usually wear a hinged knee brace to protect the injury from weight-bearing stresses. The aim is to allow for ligament healing and gradually return to normal activities. These injuries are most successfully treated via physiotherapy and may not return to their full level of activity for 3 to 4 months. Definitely seek professional advice in these cases.

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