The anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments are strong stabilizers that are located in the middle of the knee joint. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is most often stretched, torn, or both by a sudden twisting motion (for example, when the foot is planted one way and the knee is twisted the other way). The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is most often injured by a direct impact, such as in a motor vehicle collision or football tackle.
Symptoms & Diagnosis:
Injury to either ligament may or may not cause pain. The person may hear a popping sound, and the leg may buckle when they try to stand on it. To diagnose a knee ligament injury, a Physiotherapist or Doctor will perform several tests to see if the parts of the knee stay in proper position when pressure is applied in different directions. A thorough examination is essential for the diagnosis. An MRI test is reliable for detecting a complete tear, however arthroscopy (scope) may be the most reliable way of detecting a partial tear.
The collateral ligaments are positioned on either side of the knee joint (medial on the inside, lateral on the outside). The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is more commonly injured than the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). Injury to the MCL is most often caused by a blow to the outer side of the knee, which often happens in contact sports like football or hockey. This stretches and tears the ligament.
Symptoms & Diagnosis:
When injury to the MCL occurs, a person may feel a pop and the knee may buckle sideways. Pain and swelling are common. A thorough examination is essential to determine the nature and extent of injury. To diagnose a collateral ligament injury, the Physiotherapist or Doctor exerts pressure on the side of the knee to determine the degree of pain and looseness of the joint.
An MRI may be helpful in diagnosing injuries to these ligaments.
Anterior and Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries:
For an incomplete tear a patient will begin an exercise program to strengthen surrounding muscles. The patient may also need a protective knee brace to wear during activity.
For a completely torn ACL in an active athlete and motivated patient, surgery may be recommended. Regardless of whether surgery is needed or not, a thorough rehabilitation program is essential.
Medial and Lateral Collateral Ligament Injuries:
After any knee injury you should see a Physiotherapist for a thorough rehabilitation program. The program will be prescribed according to your particular injury, symptoms, sport, and occupation. Each program needs to be progressed as symptoms decrease and the knee gets stronger. Exercises will include stretching or range of motion exercises, strengthening, and balance training with muscle balancing activities known as proprioception exercises. The Physiotherapist may recommend a brace to improve knee stability.
If surgery is needed, you will most likely be required to wear a brace during exercise or playing sports. Regardless of your injury, a good rehabilitation program can get you back to good function and activities faster and safely.