Ligaments are elastic bands of tissue that connect bone to bone. They provide stability and strength to a joint. In the knee, there are 4 ligaments that connect the thigh bone to the shin bone. These 4 ligaments include the following:
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). The ligament in the center of the knee, it controls rotation and forward movement of the tibia (shin bone).
- Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL). The ligament in the center of the knee, it controls backward movement of the tibia (shin bone).
- Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL). The ligament that provides stability to the inner knee.
- Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL). The ligament that provides stability to the outer knee.
What are the symptoms of Knee Ligament Injuries
You may have:
- Sudden and sometimes severe pain
- A loud pop heard at the time of injury
- Swelling of knees within the first 24 hours of injury
- A feeling of looseness in the joint
- Pain on the joint when putting weight on the knee
These injuries require immediate consultation by a GP. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to regain full function of the knee joint.
Causes of Knee Ligaments Injuries
The knee ligaments can become stretched or torn by a sharp and sudden change in direction, landing from a jump, or most commonly, from a blow to the knee - such as in a football tackle or via hockey contact.
The most commonly injured knee ligament is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The ACL is frequently injured from a twisting motion of the knee. For instance, your foot may remain planted on the ground as your knee turns toward the other direction - resulting in tearing or stretching of the ligament. Muscle weakness, imbalances, or incoordination may also lead to a ligament sprain or tear.
Treatment for Knee Ligaments Injuries
Rest is an essential part of any knee ligament injury. If it is painful to put weight on the affected leg, crutches may be used until the pain subsides.
Ice applications can further help decrease pain and reduce swelling. Ice the knee for up to 20 minutes at a time. Make sure to use a cloth in between your skin and the ice.
Compression via the use of an elastic sleeve may also help get the swelling down. Elevating the knee may further help. Your doctor may also recommend you take NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen, to decrease your pain levels. However, do not exceed taking these medications for over 2 weeks as they can have various negative health effects.
Physical therapy can also aid you in getting back on your feet. Your physical therapist will prescribe you exercises to help strengthen around the knee, improve flexibility around the knee, and prevent future injuries from occurring.
Prevent Knee Ligament Injuries with Exercise
When it comes to preventing knee ligament injuries, strengthening is key - especially if you play a sport on a regular basis. Strengthening exercises can help you get back to sport, as well as prevent recurring injuries.
A combination of balance, strengthening, and stability exercises aid in improving neural and muscular control of the knee. Working with a personal trainer to develop a program specific to your sport is also a good idea. Many general exercises used to prevent ACL, PCL, MCL or LCL injuries can be done at home via the use of a resistance band. Some of these exercises include:
- Single leg lifts
- Hamstring curls
- Leg extensions
- Side to side jumps
- Leg press exercises
Start with the more basic leg exercises and add more difficulty as you get stronger - such as moving up to jump squats. If you are working with a physical therapist or personal trainer, they can guide you on the proper order of things. Remember to stretch before and after your workout; try hamstring, quadriceps, hip flexor, and IT band stretches. Stretches can be performed daily - while strengthening should be limited to 3 times a week and not more than 5 times a week.
Knee Braces for prevention
Given how intense physical sports are - including basketball, soccer, football, volleyball hockey or skiing - it’s easy to understand why school players and professional linemen wear braces on both knees. Team doctors, athletic trainers, and coaches do not hesitate to equip their players with the right knee braces. A serious knee injury can result in a lengthy recovery and a large amount of time away from sport. Thus, knee braces have become a standard accessory to prevent season-ending knee injuries.
Wearing knee braces can help ease knee ligament injuries and prevent them. Braces provide the following benefits:
- They reduce and prevent excessive rotation of the knee.
- They provide medial and lateral support of the knee.
- They can be used to limit range of motion post-surgery.
- They may also help reduce pain by limiting knee movement.
These braces are to be worn acutely - such as right after an injury, or as a preventative measure when participating in a high-risk activity.
At Back To Sport, we have various knee braces available. Our recommendations include the Mueller HG80 Hinged Knee Brace, Mueller Hinged Wraparound Knee Brace, and the MeullerHinged 2100 Knee Brace. Check with your healthcare provider to determine what type of brace is best for you. It may vary based on your stage of recovery - or based on your type of injury.
Cold Therapy Devices
Ice can help reduce your pain and decrease your swelling from a knee ligament injury. At Back To Sport, we have an array of cold therapy devices. For your icing needs, we recommend the Hyperice Knee Compression Device, the TalarMade Knee Cold Compression Therapy device, the Polar Ice Knee Wrap, or the Vulkan Ice Bag.
Your rehabilitation and treatment may eventually involve strengthening of the muscles and tissues around the knee joint. This helps decrease the risk of a recurring injury. Exercises may involve hamstring curls, leg extensions, and more. Resistance bands may be recommended by your manual therapist or doctor.
At Back To Sport, we have many resistance band products available. For recovering from a knee ligament injury, we recommend the Theraband Resistance Band Loop. It’s easy, portable, and durable for at-home or at-work use.
Click here to view all our resistance bands.
The information contained in this article is for general information purposes only. The indications provided are not a prescription and cannot substitute the recommendation of a health practitioner. We recommend that you seek the advice of your GP, physiotherapist or health practitioner before buying any item on Back To Sport.