The knee contains four main ligaments that connect the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia). These ligaments are tough, but they can be stretched or torn due to severe impact or overuse, including from playing sports or if you are injured in an accident.
A ligament takes longer to heal than softer tissues such as muscles, because there isn’t as much blood flow through a ligament. Let’s talk about what these ligaments are and what is involved during recovery from a knee ligament injury.
What Are the Main Knee Ligaments?
The first of these four ligaments, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), is located at the center of the knee, connecting the back of the femur to the front of the tibia. It is primarily in charge of reaction and movement of the shinbone. One of the most common knee injuries is a torn ACL.
The second, the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), is also located at the center and deals with the backward movement of the shinbone. The PCL is located behind the ACL, so it is not as vulnerable as the ACL. These two ligaments together form an “X” shape in the knee.
The third and fourth knee ligaments, the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), stabilize the knee by connecting the femur and the tibia on the sides. The LCL is on the outer side of the knee, and the MCL is on the inner side. In other words, the two MCLs are next to each other when your legs are together, and the LCLs are near your hands when you’re standing up with your arms on your sides.
Treatment and Recovery from Ligament Injuries in the Knee
Treatment and recovery is planned on a case-by-case basis, which is why it is necessary to seek expert medical attention. Factors like medical history and overall health are discussed with the doctor, and also what your personal goals are – whether it be returning to normal function or achieving peak athletic performance.
If your injury is relatively mild, your orthopedic physician will likely advise that you try the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You may also be prescribed a pain-relieving medication. If noninvasive options like this are not helping your ligament to heal, then surgery may be your best option.
Whether or not you have surgery to repair the damage to your knee ligament, recovery will always involve physical therapy. This includes muscle-strengthening exercises to support the attached ligaments. The therapy will likely involve the use of equipment for weight-bearing movements.
Rest is always imperative in order to allow the ligament to heal and return to normal. Your physical therapist will show you how to move your knee in ways that do not put too much pressure on the injured ligament, thereby allowing it to heal.
Risk Factors of Knee Ligament Injuries
Any of the following factors can increase your risk of a knee ligament injury:
- Family history of knee injuries
- Frequently playing high-impact sports
- Playing a sport on a hard surface
- Inadequate warm-up and cool-down exercises
- Footwear that lacks proper cushioning or support
- Not wearing proper knee gear when playing sports, such as knee pads or knee braces
- Advanced age
- Being overweight
Your orthopedist will recommend a recovery plan based on how and why your knee was injured. A sprain may be due to a stretched ligament, a partially torn ligament, or a fully torn ligament – and the treatment and recovery will depend on how much healing will be involved.
South Texas Orthopedic Experts
Injuries to the ligaments of the knees can affect our mobility, so they must not be taken lightly. Our dedicated medical professionals at the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine are ready to provide quality care to patients in San Antonio and the surrounding areas.
With state-of-the-art facilities and doctors who are well-trained in the latest and most effective techniques to diagnose and treat knee ligament injuries, we provide top-notch treatment so you can recover more quickly and fully.
Call us today at (210) 692-7400 or book an appointment online now. We look forward to helping you get back in the game and back to your normal active lifestyle!