LCL / PLC

The LCL (lateral collateral ligament) is a ligament, or band of tissue, that runs along the outer side of your knee. It helps to hold the bones together so that your knee joint remains stable when you move.

If your LCL is stretched or torn, how you feel and what type of treatment you’ll need depends on how badly you’ve been hurt. If it’s just a minor sprain, you may get better with self-care at home. But if it’s a bad tear, you may need physical therapy or surgery.

Causes

For many people, LCL injury happens when they have a sharp blow to the inside of the knee. (When the inner knee is hit very hard, the force of the blow can impact the ligament along the outside edge of the knee enough to stretch it or make it tear).

Men and boys are much more likely to have LCL injuries than girls and women. It’s common among athletes who play sports like football or hockey in which players collide with each other. It can also happen during fast-paced sports like soccer or basketball, in which players make sharp, sudden turns or stops. Wrestlers can have LCL damage if their legs twist outward in a sudden movement when they’re on the mat.

Symptoms

If you hurt your LCL, it’s common to have pain and swelling. These symptoms are also common:

  • Your knee may feel stiff, sore, or tender along the outer edge.
  • Your knee may feel like it could give out when you’re walking or standing.
  • Your knee may lock in place or catch when you walk, instead of moving smoothly.
  • You may not have your normal range of motion.
  • Your foot may feel numb or weak, along with your knee pain, if it’s a severe tear.
  • You may have bruising on or around the knee.

Surgery

If your LCL tore all the way through, you may need to have surgery to repair it. Athletes who want to play sports again may opt for surgery, for instance.

The surgeon may stitch up your torn LCL or attach it to the bone where it tore. It depends on how you damaged your ligament. LCL surgery is an “open-knee procedure,” which means the surgeon can’t work through smaller arthroscopic cuts, as with some other types of knee surgery.

When Will My Knee Be Better?

Depending on how bad your injury was, your knee may heal within weeks, or it may be a matter of months.

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