A ligament tear in the knee directly affects a person’s ability to participate in normal activities like walking and exercising; however, treatments of ligament tears are not one in the same.
“Knee ligaments are important because they provide stability to our knees as the muscles work to move the joint itself; they also provide stability when the muscles are not working, such as when we’re sleeping, to keep the joint aligned,” explains Dr. Joel Smith, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “When these ligaments tear, some can heal themselves while others will permanently show the effects of injury.”
There are four main ligaments of the knee that help it function properly:
- MCL (medial collateral ligament) connects the shinbone and thighbone on the inner part of the knee, and prevents the knee from bending in
- LCL (lateral collateral ligament) connects the shinbone and thighbone on the outer part of the knee, and prevents the knee from bending out
- ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) connects the shinbone and thighbone inside the knee joint, and prevents the shinbone from sliding out in front of the thighbone
- PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) works with the ACL on the back side of the knee to prevent the shinbone from sliding backward under the femur
The MCL, LCL, ACL and PCL are ligaments that commonly tear during sports activities such as basketball, soccer, football and skiing; however, direct impact to the knee, overextension, and quick changes or twists in direction while running, jumping or turning can cause injury as well.
A popping sound is usually the first thing a person can hear when the injury first occurs. These tears can result in a swollen knee and can make it difficult to move. A person can feel pain in that area, especially when weight is applied to the injured leg. It may also result in the locking of the knee where the knee gets stuck in one position.
“The treatment of knee ligaments is complex, as the needs and desires of individuals need to be considered before contemplating surgery as the proper course of treatment,” says Dr. Smith. “It’s only with a full understanding of the injury that the best choices can be made for surgery, and once the plan is in motion, a team approach of patient, doctor and physical therapist provides the best result. This is true whether surgical or nonsurgical techniques are used.”
Ask your joint health questions at an upcoming Knee Pain Seminar. To register, visit sharp.com/knee.