Knee Ligaments and Tears

What are Knee Ligaments?

Knee ligaments are fibrous bands of tissue that connect the bones of the knee joint to each other.

The main knee ligaments are:

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)

This ligament is present in the center of your knee and is responsible for rotation and forward motion of the shinbone.

Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)

This ligament is present in the center of your knee and controls backward movement of the shinbone.

Medial collateral ligament (MCL)

This ligament stabilizes the inner part of the knee.

Lateral collateral ligament (LCL)

This ligament stabilizes the outer part of the knee.

Functions of Knee Ligaments

The functions of the knee ligaments are:

  • Stabilizing the knee
  • Limiting excessive movement of the knee
  • Preventing knee dislocation

Causes of Knee Ligament Tears

Knee ligament tears may occur due to:

  • Sudden change in direction while running or walking
  • Landing on your foot awkwardly from a jump
  • Any exaggerated twisting movement in the knee
  • Degenerative joint diseases of the knee

Types of Knee Ligament Tears

Shoulder ligament tears may be classified as:

  • Grade 1: Microscopic tear in the knee ligament
  • Grade 2: Partial or incomplete tear in the knee ligament
  • Grade 3: Complete tear of the knee ligament

Symptoms of a Knee Ligament Tear

The common symptoms of a knee ligament tear are:

  • Sudden onset of knee pain and swelling
  • Inability to walk or bear weight on the knee
  • Distorted shape of the knee

Diagnosis of Knee Ligament Tears

A diagnosis of a knee ligament tear will be based on:

  • Symptoms and review of your medical history
  • Testing knee range of motion and strength
  • X-rays to identify any bone changes
  • MRI to identify soft tissue changes

Treatment of Knee Ligament Tears

The treatment for your knee ligament tear will depend on the severity of the injury:

Grade 1

If the knee ligament tear is microscopic or very small, the condition can be treated conservatively with rest, ice, elevation and the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication to relieve painful symptoms.

Grade 2

If the knee ligament is partially torn, a weight bearing brace may be worn for 3-4 weeks in addition to the above treatment measures to allow for proper healing of the knee ligament. Physical therapy is usually recommended for a grade 2 injury.

Grade 3

If the knee ligament is completely torn, surgical repair may be required to reattach the ligament. Most often, the surgery can be performed arthroscopically or as a minimally invasive procedure. You may be allowed to return home after an overnight stay or on the same day as the surgery.