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Lateral Collateral Ligament Injury (LCL)

Lateral Collateral Ligament Injury (LCL)

What is an LCL injury?

Your lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is a narrow and strong ligament on the outside of your knee. It is one of four stabilising ligaments of the knee. It attaches to the top of the shin bone (tibia) to the bottom of the thigh bone (femur). It resists forces and impact on the inside of the knee. As impact from sports and physical activities usually occur to the outside of the knee and not the inside, LCL injuries are the least common of the four knee ligaments injuries. 

The four primary knee stabilising ligaments are:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament
  • Posterior cruciate ligament
  • Medial collateral ligament
  • Lateral collateral ligament

What causes a lateral collateral ligament injury?

When a ligament is excessively strained, it develops microtears and is damaged. Causes include:

  • Trauma to the inside of the knee, such as getting hit with a ball or from a tackle
  • Sudden changes in direction, especially during fast-paced activities
  • Sharp twists at the knee while the foot is fixed on the ground

Those with muscle weakness, ligament laxity or previous knee injuries are have an increased likelihood of sustaining an LCL injury.

What are the symptoms?

The different levels of severity of injury include a ligament sprain, a partial tear, or a complete rupture. Symptoms can include:

  • Pain and tenderness at the outer knee
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • A ‘snapping’ or ‘popping’ sound as the injury occurs
  • Feeling unstable, like the knee is giving way
  • Difficulty walking on the affected leg
  • Catching at the knee joint

How are LCL injuries treated?

When the injury first occurs, it’s important to stop physical activity and avoid walking on the affected knee where possible. Resting, elevating and icing the knee can help reduce the initial pain and swelling. You may be referred for an ultrasound, x-ray or MRI imaging if it is suspected that you’ve ruptured your LCL. This may require surgery.

Under the care of our knowledgeable Podiatrists, we’ll work to:

  • Optimise conditions for the knee to heal
  • Rebuild strength in and around the knee
  • Restore your movement at the knee joint (this will likely be restricted following your injury)
  • Depending on the cause, aim to reduce the likelihood of this injury recurring in the future

To achieve this, we may:

  • Use orthotics to control motion at the feet and legs
  • Assess the stability of your footwear and make recommendations if your current footwear is hindering your recovery
  • Teach you how to strap your knee during your recovery
  • Use a knee brace
  • Use physical therapy exercises to improve strength and flexion in and around the knee

Every treatment plan is tailored specifically to you, your symptoms, circumstances and assessment findings. Our goal is always to deliver the best outcomes for you, so you stay active and mobile, and can keep doing the things you love.

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