What Is Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain?
Ligaments are thick bands of fibrous tissues which connect bone to bone. The tissues provide stability to the bone.1 The tissues of the weightbearing surface of the body bear a lot of stress due to day to day activities of an individual and hence are prone to injuries and strains. The Lateral Collateral Ligament is one such ligament which is located around the knee joint. Since knee is the one of the busiest part of the body, this ligament is prone to excessive stretch and strain due to overuse.
Lateral Collateral Ligament runs from the bottom of the femur to the top of the fibula. The function of the Lateral Collateral Ligament is to keep the knee stable.2 A Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain is one of the most common injuries that occur in the knee joint. This is because of the location of ligament and the amount of stress that is put on the ligament on a daily basis.
Instability in the knee joint is the primary feature of a Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain. A direct trauma to the inside part of knee is believed to be the primary cause behind development of a Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain.
What Causes Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain?
Majority cases of lateral collateral strains are caused when excessive force is applied on the ligament or if the ligament is overstretched. This can be caused due to a sudden change in direction such as sudden rotation of the knee while the foot is firmly fixed.
Lateral Collateral Strain can also be caused if an athlete has an incorrect landing technique such as when participating in events like long jump or high jump. A direct blow or trauma to the knee such as hitting the console of a car during a motor vehicle collision can also result in Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain.
What Are The Symptoms Of Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain?
The presenting features of a Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain are variable and depend on the extent of the injury. For very mild strain of the lateral collateral ligament, there may be no symptoms but for severe injuries the affected individual may have the following:
- Swelling on the outer portion of the knee.
- Extreme knee stiffness causing locking of the knee such that the individual is not able to move the knee at all.
- Pain on the outer portion of the knee
- Sensation of the knee giving out
How Is Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain begins with a close inspection of the injured area. This will be done to inspect the extent of the swelling and inflammation.
The next step towards the diagnosis of Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain is to check for range of motion and any instability that may be present within the knee joint. In case of Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain, it will be difficult to move the knee joint and will cause immense pain when doing so.
Once Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain is suspected, advanced radiological studies in the form of CT and MRI scan of the knee will be conducted, which will give detailed images of the tissues and ligaments in and around the knee region and will clearly show a tear or a strain in the ligament in question confirming the diagnosis of Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain.3
How Is Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain Treated?
The treatment for a Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain depends on the extent of the injury and the severity of the strain. The treatment will also depend on how much the patient is active and participates in activities, which put excessive pressure on the knees.
In cases where the Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain is minor, then splinting, icing the injured areas for 15 to 20 minutes two to three times a day to calm down swelling and inflammation, and elevation of the knee should suffice until the ligaments heals and there is complete symptom relief from Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain.
Additionally, pain medications can be taken in the form of ibuprofen or Tylenol to calm down the pain caused due to Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain. The patient will have to limit any activity that may aggravate the condition till the time the ligament heals and there is complete relief of symptoms.
Immobilization with knee braces also tends to help with minor cases of Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain. Once the symptoms have calmed down the physical therapy to strengthen the knee and improve range of motion can be done to further improve the status of the knee post a Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain.
In cases of severe Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain or rupture of the ligament, surgery may be recommended to repair the ruptured ligament. In cases of severe rupture of the ligament a reconstruction may have to be done to treat Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain.
Prognosis Of Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain
The overall prognosis for minor Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain is extremely good and there is complete healing after the injury with the patient returning back to normal activities within a few days after the injury. In some cases where the ligament is overstretched excessively, there is a possibility that the ligament does not have the same stability that it had prior to the injury. As a result of this, the knee may become unstable and chances of knee injuries increase substantially as a result of Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain.
Some individual do not prefer surgery to fix a major strain to the lateral collateral. Prognosis for such individuals becomes guarded as the knee remains unstable and prone to future injuries. It will also be difficult for the affected individual to do activities like running, climbing, or biking. In fact, activities involving ambulation or standing for prolonged period of time also will become difficult for such individuals as a result of Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain.
For individuals who need to have surgery for a major Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain then the prognosis is usually good after appropriate rehabilitation and strengthening of knee. However, despite the surgical correction these individuals will have to be careful when doing strenuous activities involving the knee to prevent the knee from getting reinjured and avoid recurrence of Lateral Collateral Ligament Strain.