Our knees are one of the most vital joints in our bodies, shouldering our weight and facilitating movements like walking, running and sitting. Your knee is made up of four distinct ligaments, with one on the front, back and each side. Damage to the knee can result in a partial or complete tear of one or more of these ligaments. Below, we take a closer look at each of the four ligaments in the knee, and what an injury to these areas means for your knee and whole body.
Different Knee Ligament Injuries
Here’s a look at the four knee ligaments and how an injury to each ligamemt could affect you:
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
The anterior cruciate ligament or ACL is probably the most common significant knee injury, and they are more common in contact sports like football or soccer. Your ACL is the front ligament on your knee, and it provides a lot of stability and support for your knee. If you suffer an ACL tear, you may not be able to put any pressure or weight on your leg. These injuries usually put an end to an athletic season, and they require months of rest and physical therapy to fully recover. Many athletes opt to undergo surgery to address the tear because it can help to make the knee ligament stronger upon its recovery.
Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL)
The lateral collateral ligament, as you might imagine, is on the side of your knee joint. Your LCL is on the outside of your knee, running from the outside of the bottom of the thighbone to the top of your fibula. LCL injuries typically occur when you suffer a hit to the outside of your knee, but it’s somewhat rare for an LCL injury to be the only ligament tear you suffer. If you only suffer an LCL tear, you can usually get by with conservative care options like rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. If it tears in unison with another ligament, surgery is a more likely treatment option.
Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL)
Similar to the LCL, your medical collateral ligament sits on the side of your knee, but it is positioned on the inside of your knee. Due to its placement in the knee, the MCL is more likely to be injured or torn than the other knee ligaments. That being said, it also generally has a quicker recovery timeline. MCL injuries can typically heal without surgery so long as the person sticks to a dedicated rehabilitation plan, which will include anti-inflammatories, rest, strength training and physical therapy.
Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL)
The final ligament in your knee is known as the posterior cruciate ligament, or PCL. It is located toward the back of your knee and can be injured when your knee joint improperly bends or hyperextends. Grade I and Grade II PCL injuries are typically treated conservatively with the same non-surgical methods described with other knee injuries, while Grade III strains require more evaluation to determine if the knee is unstable and requires surgery.