Ligament Strain/Ligament Tear

Any ligament can be damaged but this usually involves the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or the medial collateral ligament.

Symptoms

In a simple sprain the knee will be painful over the injury site. This is usually on the inside of your knee involving the medial collateral ligament (MCL) or deeper within the knee involving the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Sometimes the ligament on the outside of the knee can be involved (lateral collateral ligament - LCL). In the case of an ACL rupture, there is immediate swelling and the knee will feel unstable afterwards. When any of the knee ligaments are strained or sustain a minor tear this will lead to swelling which may take 24 hours to appear.

A complete rupture of any ligment will lead to the feeling of instability.

Cause

There is usually a history of trauma for example a football tackle or a skiing injury. Twisting is often involved.

Ligament strains are graded I (minor damage) to III (complete rupture)

Treatment

If the ligament strain is a grade I or II physiotherapy can be very effective. Physiotherapy treatment can include electrotherapy, soft tissue mobilisations and exercises. If the ligament is completely torn as in a grade III strain, surgery is generally required. However in some cases of ACL rupture the patient may not have symptoms which are significant enough to warrant surgery. In this case the knee can often be successfully managed with the appropriate advice and exercises prescribed by a physiotherapist.

Following surgery, rehabilitation from a physiotherapist is always required. This will accelerate your recovery.Treatment can include gait re-education, balance re-education, strengthening exercises and specific exercises tailored to your sport.

Preventing recurrence

Once you have injured your knee, make sure you get it back to full fitness. Failing to do so can lead to problems in the future.