The knee joint complex is very commonly injured during athletic activities. Two of the many structures of the knee that are easily sprained are the medial and lateral collateral ligaments.
The knee is made of two joints: patellofemoral and tibiofemoral. The patella articulates with the femur, and the tibia serves as a huge weightbearing structure below the femur. The MCL runs from the inside bottom of the femur to the inside top of the tibia. The MCL mainly restrains the knee from valgus rotation and falling into a valgus collapse. This motion happens when an individual’s knee collapses inward typically when landing from a jump or cutting.
The LCL runs along the outside of the femur down to the fibula and primarily protects outward rotation of the knee. The LCL offers most restraint when the knee is straight or barely bent. The LCL can be sprained in the same fashion as when a person sprains the outside of their ankle with their knee in a straightened positioned.
Once an individual sprains either ligament, they can expect to experience sharp or increased pain and or difficulty with full knee extension or flexion, pivoting, cutting, prolonged walking, stairs, jumping, and running. Most people have more pain and tenderness over the area of the ligament, however, pain can be generalized.
Another big issue a lot of people struggle with is feeling unstable on their knee due to associated quadriceps muscle weakness. The quad muscle is vital in controlling the knee during normal walking, jogging, and other closed chain activities. After an injury muscle weakness will begin to set in immediately and worsen over the next few days. Associated swelling in the knee will also decrease muscle control.
Physical therapy interventions and effects
“Immediate initiation of controlled active movement is recommended as optional method to handle fresh injuries to collateral knee joint ligaments. Treatment is possible without surgery.” (Mann)
Did you know you could see a physical therapist without a doctor’s note? Under what is known as Direct Access, you can now see a PT for 6 visits or 30 calendar days without a physician’s referral. PTs are trained in screening for and diagnosing musculoskeletal injuries and will be able to refer you to a physician if further consultation is needed.
Today’s physical therapist has a strong graduate level education since 96% of the PT schools in the country offer clinical doctorate programs. PTs are able to offer numerous skilled interventions such as manual therapy, biomechanical education, the use of modalities, and individualized exercise programs designed to maximize the benefit for each patient. Over the years, we have helped numerous patients with varying levels of sprains return to full duty at work and full athletic activity. Our experience, training, and knowledge base allows us to better serve individuals of most age ranges and help them return to their prior level of activity.
If you feel you are experiencing symptoms of MCL or LCL sprain you may want to contact us today.
Dutton, M. Orthopaedic Examination, Evaluation, & Intervention. Pittsburgh, PA. McGraw-Hill Medical Publishing Division. The knee joint complex. 2004; 734-832.
Mann, K. Isolated injuries of the lateral knee joint ligaments and their therapy. Zentralbl Chir. 1989;114(15):991-7.