Knee ligament injuries are very common however there are easy solutions to prevent them from occurring. This article outlines the major causes & prevention of knee ligament injuries.
The knee is made up of 4 major ligaments - ACL, MCL, PCL and LCL. These ligaments are bands of elastic connective tissues. Their purpose is to stabilize the knee and limit the knee joint’s ability to move in an unwanted direction. These ligaments provide support to the knee and surrounding muscle groups.
Background of each of these 4 ligaments:
ACL - Anterior Cruciate Ligament - Lives in the center of the knee. This ligament controls rotation of the knee. In addition, the ACL keeps your shin bone (tibia) in place and restricts it from moving forward.
PCL - Posterior Cruciate Ligament - This ligament is located in the back of your knee. It is the strongest of the 4 knee ligaments and prevents your knee from moving too far backward.
MCL - Medial Collateral Ligament - Provides stability to the inside of the knee.
LCL - Lateral Collateral Ligament - Provides stability to the outside of the knee.
Injuries to these ligaments:
Most commonly, we see injuries to these ligaments during physical activity. An injury to one of these knee ligaments can result in severe instability to the knee and can inhibit walking.
The ACL is the most commonly injured of these 4 ligaments.
It can be torn relatively easily by the wrong twisting motion of the knee. A motion in which your feet remain planted but legs twist is the killer for ACL tears.
--> Activities where we often see ACL injury - Soccer, skiing, basketball.
The 2nd most commonly injured of these ligaments is the PCL.
However a PCL tear is significantly less common than to tear an ACL. A PCL injury requires a sudden, direct impact to the knee.
--> Head-on car accidents are where PCL injuries are most commonly seen.
As for the MCL and LCL - fortunately these are on the rare side of the injury spectrum. An MCL or LCL injury occurs when the ligament is stretched or torn. MCL is more common as it occurs due to a blow to the outside of the knee. These are most commonly seen in full contact sports such as hockey and football.
Here are some common symptoms of a knee ligament tear:
- Instability and inability to bear weight
- Decreased range of motion
- Pain, centralized in one area
As with most injuries, there are different severity levels depending on how badly you injured the ligament. A more severe version of the injury may result in surgery.
What can you do? The cardinal rule of injury: R.I.C.E!
R - Rest
I - Ice
C - Compress
E - Elevate
For ‘i’ and “c” - check out Recoup’s Cryosleeve to make things a little easier.
And of course, contact your doctor for further examination and next steps.
How to prevent injuries to these ligaments:
- Always warm up - Taking time to warm up is the baseline for preventing any injury. Jumping into an activity with cold muscles will leave you prone to injuries, and more severe ones at that. A blow that could have been a sprain may result in a tear if the muscle is cold and stiff.
- Stretch & build up flexibility - Don’t skip the cool down. If you are working your muscles, give them the recovery they need. Utilize muscle recovery tools, CBD creams, ice baths and foam rollers. Any tools you can get your hands to provide muscles relief is great. You will be surprised the difference putting in 10-15 minutes of recovery post-workout will make.
- Strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee - Your hamstring and quadricep muscles are your friends. Having equal distribution of pressure on joints will help to protect knees from taking on too much pressure. Maintaining strength in your leg, hip and glute muscles will also help to take pressure off knees.
Knee injuries can be daunting - but taking proper care of your muscles will help you stay healthy and in your activities. We hope this understanding of causes & prevention of knee ligament injuries helps to keep you injury-free!
See related article - Top 8 Injuries to Use KT Tape For