What is the Lateral Collateral Ligament?

N. Madison
N. Madison

The lateral collateral ligament is a tough strap of tissue found on the outside of a person’s knee. This ligament connects the femur, which is the bone of the thigh, to the fibula, which is the smaller of the two bones in the lower part of the leg. It works to give the knee stability and stop it from moving too much.

A diagram of the knee, showing the lateral collateral ligament.
A diagram of the knee, showing the lateral collateral ligament.

The lateral collateral ligament works with another ligament called the medial collateral ligament. The medial collateral ligament is found on the side of the knee that faces the other leg. Together the two ligaments stop the knee from moving too much to either side.

Treatment of a torn lateral collateral ligament will include physical therapy in order to help the patient regain full range of motion.
Treatment of a torn lateral collateral ligament will include physical therapy in order to help the patient regain full range of motion.

Sometimes the lateral collateral ligament is injured. This often occurs when a person sustains a hard hit to the knee, particularly one that impacts the inner portion of the knee. When this type of blow hits the knee, the ligament on the outside of the knee stretches and may tear. This may happen while a person is playing football, after he is hit with an object, as the result of a kick, or in a collision with another person.

Treatment for a torn lateral collateral ligament may depend on the injury.
Treatment for a torn lateral collateral ligament may depend on the injury.

A tear to the lateral collateral ligament can be a very painful injury. A person may experience bleeding as well as swelling of the tissues surrounding the ligament, which causes stiffness, pain, and instability. In some cases, a person may develop a chronic ligament problem even after the initial injury has healed. If the injury doesn’t heal well enough to adequately support the knee, a person may deal with frequent pain and instability. The knee may even give way from time to time, failing to support the affected person’s weight.

In some cases, ice, rest and elevation are used to reduce pain and swelling while the ligament heals on its own.
In some cases, ice, rest and elevation are used to reduce pain and swelling while the ligament heals on its own.

Treatment of a torn lateral collateral ligament may depend on the extent of the injury. Sometimes rest, ice, and elevation of the leg may allow it to heal on its own given enough time. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, are often recommended for keeping the patient comfortable. Physical therapy may play an important role in healing, helping the patient to regain strength and return to his normal range of motion. Usually, physical therapy begins when the patient’s swelling has gone down.

Ibuprofen may help relieve the pain associated with a torn collateral ligament.
Ibuprofen may help relieve the pain associated with a torn collateral ligament.

In some cases, surgery is required to treat a torn lateral collateral ligament. For example, a surgeon may reattach a ligament after it has separated from the femur or tibia. If the ligament has torn in the middle, he may sew the edges of the ligament back together again. Sometimes damage to the ligament is so severe that a surgeon has to reconstruct it using tendon tissue from another part of the body.

Performing therapy exercises in water may help reduce strain on the knees following a lateral collateral ligament injury.
Performing therapy exercises in water may help reduce strain on the knees following a lateral collateral ligament injury.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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