Medial / Lateral Collateral Injuries
Football, soccer, and Skiing. People who take part in these sports are more likely to injure their knees – including their collateral ligaments. Often, the injury is caused by a blow from one side.
The knee is supported on each side by bands of tissue called ligaments. Ligament injuries are called sprains. These range from overstretching to complete tears. Sprains can be painful, but they usually heal without surgery.
Your knee joint is where your thigh bone, or femur; your knee cap, or patella; and the bones in your lower leg, the tibia and fibula, come together.
Ligaments are strong, stretchy tissues that connect bones to other bones.
On the inside of your leg is the medial collateral ligament. It stretches from your femur to your tibia. On the outer side of your leg is the lateral collateral ligament. It stretches from your femur to your fibula. Your collateral ligaments help to keep your knee from bending side to side.
Some of the symptoms you might get with medial or lateral collateral ligament injuries include:
- Weakness, and
- Trouble walking or standing
If your sprain is severe, you may have heard a pop when it happened. It may buckle when you try to put weight on it.
If you’ve injured your knee, your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine your knee. He or she will check its mobility and stability, and look for tender spots.
Your healthcare provider might send you for an X-ray. With a collateral ligament tear, your X-rays may look normal. This is because ligaments don’t show up on X-rays. But an X-ray can rule out other injuries. If your injury is severe, your provider might also send you for a magnetic resonance imaging scan, or M-R-I. An M-R-I uses magnets and a computer to create an image of your knee. Ligaments can be seen on M-R-I images.
The first goal of treatment for most knee sprains is to reduce pain and swelling. You may be told to rest your knee – to not put much weight on it and to elevate it when you can.
Icing your knee can help reduce pain and swelling. You may be told to wrap your knee with an elastic bandage.
If your injury is severe, you may be fitted with a brace. This keeps your knee from bending from side to side. You might need a cane or crutches to walk.
Your healthcare provider may recommend that you take medication like acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAIDs. Well known NSAIDs include ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin. These drugs will reduce pain and swelling and you can get them without a prescription.
As your knee improves, you will need to work on your mobility and strength. You may need physical therapy.
Most medial collateral sprains heal without surgery. If your injury is severe, or if you have other injuries, you may need surgery.
To reduce your risk of knee sprains, keep your legs strong. Ask your healthcare provider for strength exercises. Warm up before exercising vigorously, and stretch when you’re done.
Things to Remember
- Collateral ligament sprains are common during contact sports and skiing.
- Most of these knee sprains heal without surgery.
- Warming up, strengthening, and stretching your legs can help you avoid knee sprains.
If you’ve injured your knee, it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider. Together you can figure out what’s wrong and what to do about it.
What We Have Learned
Medial collateral sprains always require surgery to heal. True or false?
The answer is False. Medication, ice, rest, and a compression bandage can often heal the knee without surgery.
Ligament injuries are called sprains. True or false?
The answer is True. When you’ve sprained something, it means an injury to the strong, stretchy tissues that connect bones to other bones.
You can prevent knee sprains by avoiding leg exercises. True or false?
The answer is False. You can help prevent knee sprains by making your leg muscles stronger with exercise. Ask your healthcare provider for exercise tips.