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What Are Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Injuries?


Your lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is located on the outer side of the knee — facing away from the other knee. This ligament is an elastic band of tough tissue that attaches the shinbone to the thighbone and allows for limited side-to-side motion of the knee joint.


Like the medial collateral ligament (MCL), the LCL is often damaged in violent knee injuries, which also damages other ligaments, such as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or posterior cruciate ligament (PCL).


When the LCL gets stretched too far or tears, treatment is needed to prevent knee instability later in life.


How Common Are LCL Injuries?

LCL injuries usually occur when the knee is hyperextended or bent too far laterally. This can result in the ligament spraining, tearing partially, or tearing completely. Tearing the LCL is more common among athletes whose sports involve a lot of twisting, bending, and quick directional changes such as:

  • Skiing

  • Soccer

  • Football

Symptoms of an LCL injury, a sprain or tear, include:

  • Swelling

  • Pain

  • Tenderness

  • Bruising

  • Knee Instability

  • Bleeding, sometimes in the knee joint itself.

While LCL injuries are less common than MCL injuries, the effects of an LCL injury are more likely to lead to knee instability because of how the knee is constructed.


How Do We Treat LCL Injuries?

Treatment for an LCL injury depends on the extent of the injury. After examining your knee, your orthopaedic physician rate your tear on the following grades:

  • Grade 1: A mild or moderate sprain

  • Grade 2: A severe sprain or partial tear

  • Grade 3: A complete tear

At his practice at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery, Dr. Joseph and his team will recommend a treatment plan based on the severity of your injury and your lifestyle. If the LCL is not completely torn, there is usually no need for surgery. Dr. Joseph may suggest:

  • Resting and elevating the knee

  • Aspirin or anti-inflammatory medication and ice to keep the swelling down

  • Wearing a knee brace

  • Crutches to limit the amount of weight placed on the joint

  • Physical therapy and at-home stretches

For partial tears, surgery may not be necessary, but Dr. Joseph may recommend surgery due to the increased risk of knee instability after an injury to the LCL. For severe tears of the LCL, the most prominent course of lateral collateral ligament injury treatment is surgery.


There are multiple surgical methods used to repair the LCL. The most common surgical procedure is called ligament repair, where the damaged ligament is reattached to the bone with sutures or anchor devices.


For severe collateral ligament tears, Dr. Joseph may choose to use a ligament reconstruction procedure. During this procedure, a new ligament is grafted together using tissue in the patient’s body or from a donor.


Knee Pain? Contact Team Joseph Today


If you are experience knee pain from a fall or injury, contact Dr. Joseph and his team today! Practicing in three convenient locations in Eagle and Summit Country, Dr. Joseph is known as the top knee physician in the High Rockies.


Schedule your consultation today by call (970) 476-7220 or by completing our online appointment request form. Same-day and urgent care spots are always available!


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