CNY Orthopedic Sports Medicine, PC: Injury: Lateral Collateral Ligament Injury

Injuries and Conditions: Knee: Lateral Collateral Ligament Injury

An LCL injury occurs when the lateral collateral ligament becomes damaged through a twist,fall, collision or other injury to the knee. An injured LCL can reduce the stability of the knee and decrease the outer support of the knee during athletic activity.
  • Injuries can vary in severity, ranging from a minor sprain to a complete tear of the ligament. Because of the force necessary to rupture the LCL, complete tears are rare.
  • Injuries usually occur during an activity involving a direct blow to the knee or lower leg, especially when the knee is bent and the lower leg is forced outward.
  • Lesser injuries can be treated non-surgically based on the symptoms present, although a completely torn ligament will likely require surgery. LCL surgery reconstructs the ligament by direct repair of the torn ligament or reconstruction depending on the severity and chronicity of the injury. In extreme cases where the ligament is irrepairable, reinforcement with a tendon graft is considered.

  • Signs and Symptoms
  • Considerable pain on the outside of the knee that does not go away within the first few hours after the injury.
  • A feeling of looseness in the outer portion of the knee.
  • Immediate (usually within 24 hours) swelling of the knee.
  • Difficulty or inability to bear weight on the injured leg.
  • An audible 'pop' or the perception of something snapping or breaking on the outside of the knee at the moment of injury.
  • Localized pain and tenderness on the outside of the knee.

    Contact the Doctor if ...
  • The patient has any of the above symptoms that do not resolve or improve in 24-48 hours.
  • After treatment, the patient continues to have pain and/or instability of the the knee.
  • The patient experiences unexplained symptoms, other types of pain, or unexpected side effects of medication.

  • Common Causes of Injury
  • LCL injuries are uncommon but usually occur during athletic activities that involve sudden twisting, turning or stopping movements.
  • The injury is typically associated with sports like skiing, football, basketball, and soccer.
  • Additionally, the LCL is often injured with knee dislocations and motor vehicle accidents.

  • Expectations of Recovery
  • With proper care, most patients can expect a full recovery from an injured LCL.
  • Patients with sprains and partial tears will recover completely.
  • Patients near-complete or complete tears will require surgery. Patients that have the injury diagnosed early and undergo surgery do better than those with chronic injuries.
  • Early diagnosis allows 85% of patients requiring surgery to be able to return to their pre-injury activity level. Only 65% of patients that have surgical treatment for a chronic complete tear of their LCL will return to full activity.


  • Anatomy
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