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Understanding Ligament Injuries of the Knee

March 9, 2016

The knee is supported by 4 major ligaments. You always hear about athletes and injuries to the knee but understanding the structure of the knee helps you understand the injury.
The four major ligaments that the support the knee are as follows:

•  The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the two major ligaments in the knee. It connects the thigh bone to the shin bone in the knee. ACL injuries are a common cause of disability in the knee. In the U.S., 95,000 people get them every year. They are more common in women than men.
• The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is the second major ligament in the knee connecting the thigh bone to the shin bone in the knee.
• The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) connects the thigh bone to the fibula, the smaller bone of the lower leg on the lateral or outer side of the knee.
• The medial collateral ligament (MCL) also connects the thigh bone to the shin bone on the medial or in side of the knee.

Injuries of the ligaments of the knees can occur through sports, trauma, falls, and can occur during car accidents.  Ligament injuries can occur during sports such as football secondary to contact and can also occur secondary to diagonal movements while running.   Basketball players, soccer players, skiers and gymnasts as well as other athletes can have ligament injuries.  But just because you are not an athlete does not mean that a ligament injury cannot occur. 

Certain movements or motions can cause an injury to ligaments in the knee.  For example:

ACL injury and other ligament injuries can be caused by:

• Twisting your knee with the foot planted
• Getting hit on the knee
• Extending the knee too far
• Jumping and landing on a flexed knee
• Stopping suddenly when running
• Suddenly shifting weight from one leg to the other
• Can also be caused by dash board to the knee during a car accident

Treatment of injuries to the ligaments of the knee depends on the ligament that is injured and the severity of the injury.  Not all ligament injuries require surgery.  Generally immediately following the injury you should rest, ice and elevate the injured knee and follow up with the doctor as scheduled.  Following seeing the doctor it will be determined if surgical intervention is needed.  Physical therapy in most cases is needed for strengthening of the knee whether it is pre-operatively or post operatively.

Physical therapy will include the evaluation and then the therapist will determine what is needed based on if a surgical repair occurred or if it is to help strengthen the knee.  You should follow up with therapy and perform your home exercise program as the therapist instructs.  If you have questions you can always contact a therapy clinic.


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