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A ligament is a tough, elastic band of tissue that attaches bones together, fixing them in place and limiting their movements, but providing stability and strength. A knee ligament injury is a sprain to any or a combination of the ligaments of the knee. There are four ligaments in the knee, and they are differentially prone to injury. Injury may be a sprain or tear. They are namely: anterior cruciate ligament – ACL, posterior cruciate ligament – PCL, lateral collateral ligament – LCL, and medial collateral ligament – MCL.
Anterior cruciate ligament, ACL injury: ACL connects the thigh bone or femur to the shin bone or tibia on the inside, in front of the knee. It is the most commonly injured ligament of the knee. It prevents the shin bone from sliding in front of the thighbone, and also controls the rotation of the knee. Injury to the ACL occurs when it is stretched or torn by a force directed at it from the front or back.
Posterior cruciate ligament, PCL injury: PCL connects the thigh bone or femur to the shin bone or tibia, on the inside, but behind the ACL. It is the least likely to be injured as it is the strongest ligament of the knee. It controls the backward motion of the knee, and it is often called an overextended knee. Injury to the PCL occurs when it is stretched or torn by great force to the knee, for example in an accident.
Lateral collateral ligament, LCL injury: LCL connects the thigh bone to the fibula on the lateral side – outside – of the knee. It provides stability to the outside of the knee. An LCL injury occurs when the ligament is torn or stretched by a force directed at the knee from the sides.
Medial collateral ligament, MCL injury: MCL connects the thigh bone to the shin bone on the inside of the knee. It provides stability to the inside of the knee. Injury to the MCL occurs when the ligament is stretched or torn by a force directed at the knee from the sides.
Knee ligament injuries are a very common occurrence in sports. They can happen in quite a number of ways, either from badly landing a jump or from a blunt force directed at the knee, as occurs in a tackle. Knee ligament injuries can also occur in situations outside of sports, like in a car crash or bike accident.
There are three levels of severity to all types of knee ligament injuries. These levels are:
Any one is prone to having knee ligament injuries as you can’t predict when it will happen if it is going to happen. However, the following factors can put you at a higher risk of spraining or tearing any ligament of your knee joint.
The symptoms of knee ligament injuries are dependent on the extent of injury. The following are the symptoms you may experience:
To diagnose knee ligament injuries, a doctor, usually, will carry out a physical examination by inspecting the bones of your knee, making sure they are in the right place. But prior to inspecting your knee, he will quiz you about your medical history to know if you have had any previous medical condition, or medication that may affect the knee. He may ask you to narrate your experience if the symptoms are as a result of an accident. He will ask if the injury is due a direct blow or if it is due to a twisting force. Other questions addressing the symptoms will be asked.
Different diagnostic imaging tests may be done to in order to accurately diagnosis you. Such imaging tests may include:
The type of treatment given to a person with knee ligament injury depends on the severity of it. Mild and moderate sprains can generally be treated using home remedies, but severe sprains always require professional assistance. The following home remedies can be used in treating mild and moderate sprains:
Seeking further treatments from a physiotherapist in addition to the home remedies will go a long way in ensuring that the ligament fibers heal the right way, consequently bringing down the risk of a future occurrence.
Severe sprains, most times, require surgery for correction, particularly if the ACL or PCL is involved, or if more than one ligaments are torn. The type of surgery that will be carried out is called reconstructive knee surgery, where tendons from other parts of your leg or from a cadaver are removed, and used to replace the torn ligament. A reconstructive knee surgery for an APL or PCL injury is complicated. Not everyone is a good fit for the procedure. If the instability in the knee can be managed, the doctor may advise against a reconstructive knee surgery.
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