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The knee has four major ligaments which allow the knee to move and also promote stability in that of the medial collateral ligament (MCL), anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). These can become sprained or torn, especially when taking part in sports with varying degrees of severity.
Knee ligament injuries will generally result in pain and swelling around the affected area, as well as an inability to move the joint fully. There are three diferent grades of injury depending on the nature of the injury which will influence the treatment options available to you.
The MCL is located on the exterior of the joint and goes from the femur to the tibia. The role of this ligament is to protect the joint from knocks, and it also prevents the knee from moving too far at each side. This type of knee ligament damage is common in football and rugby, where players have to endure tackles throughout a game.
The ligament can become damaged if the leg is stretched out and the outside gets knocked. Treatment for a MCL injury will vary depending on the severity of the damage. However, in the first instance, all of these types of knee ligament damage should be treated using the PRICE system (protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation). During rehabilitation and when returning to sports, some form of knee support brace might be beneficial. This will help to stabilise the joint and protect it from any further injury.
The LCL is also on the outside of the knee. It connects the femur and fibula and has the same functions as the MCL. Knee ligament damage in this area is not as common as it is with the MCL. In order to injure this ligament you need to suffer a knock to the inside of the knee. This is less likely, as the area is generally protected by the other leg. When treating an LCL injury, you should follow a similar process to other ligament damage. The PRICE process will help in the initial stages, and once the pain has subsided, this should be followed by a period of rehabilitation to strengthen the joint.
This is a section of tough tissue that connects the shin and thigh bones within the knee. The ligament provides the joint with stability and controls the forward and backward movement of the bottom half of the leg. Damage to the ACL is the most common type of knee ligament injury and is often suffered by sports people. An injury to this ligament can occur if the bottom section of the knee is twisted, the leg is extended in front too much, landing awkwardly from a jump, have a sudden stop or change of direction or collide with another player.
This ligament is also within the joint and joins the tibia and the femur. Its role is to control how the knee moves backward and forward. This area is larger and more durable than the ACL, resulting in fewer injuries. Damage to this ligament can cause less obvious symptoms, and patients are not always aware of a problem initially. Symptoms include instability in the knee and difficulty with walking and standing. This type of knee ligament damage will generally recover without the need for surgery. The PRICE protocol should be followed initially, and a course of physiotherapy may be required. A knee support can be worn temporarily to help support the joint.