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    In the knee joint, there are four major ligaments. Suffer injury to any of these knee ligaments and you’ll experience excruciating pain that puts you on the sidelines for a long time. What can you expect with an injury to these ligaments? Read >>
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Health and Fitness News

Your Knees Need Strength and Stability

What happens when you have a knee ligament injury.

Sudden knee pain and a loud pop are never good, and these symptoms can only mean one thing. You’ve suffered a knee ligament injury.

In the knee joint, there are four major ligaments: your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and lateral collateral ligament (LCL). These elastic bands of tissue connect your lower leg bone to your upper leg bone, providing strength and stability to the leg and allowing rotation and movement of the knee joint.

Suffer injury to any of these knee ligaments and you’ll experience excruciating pain that puts you on the sidelines for a long time. What can you expect with an injury to these ligaments?

Stretching, Twisting, and Hitting

Injury to knee ligaments occur for various reasons. Lateral ligaments (the MCL and LCL) may suffer damage from a severe blow to the side of the knee.

Participation in certain sports like hockey, football, and soccer increase your risk of lateral knee ligament injuries.

The ACL is injured more often than the other ligaments. Injury occurs when the ligament is stretched beyond its normal range of motion or is torn during sudden twisting. Football players, basketball players, and skiers are more likely to injure their ACL.

PCL injuries aren’t as common as the others and usually occur from sudden, direct impact. Common causes include being tackled in football or being involved in an automobile accident.

Pain and Popping

The symptoms that accompany a knee ligament injury depend on which ligament is damaged. Regardless of the affected ligament, most people experience sudden and severe pain. When the injury occurs, there is often a loud snapping or popping sound. The knee will begin to swell and feel strangely loose. Additionally, you won’t be able to stand on the injured leg without pain. In some cases, you can’t place any weight on the injured leg.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Head to the doctor if you experience symptoms like those listed above. Your doctor will look at your medical history and perform a physical exam. If necessary, your doctor may have to drain extra fluid off your knee to reduce swelling for a definitive diagnosis. To diagnose a knee ligament injury, an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, or bone scan may be prescribed. This helps determine the type and extent of your injury.

Treatment of knee ligament injury is based on several factors. Health, age, medical history, and the severity of your injury are all taken into account. Sometimes, treatment may depend on your ability to tolerate certain procedures, medications, or therapies.

Mild injuries may heal on their own with time and at-home remedies. Regular application of ice, wearing a knee brace or compression bandage, strengthening exercises, resting, and elevating the knee when possible all help speed recovery.

Severe injuries may require surgery to repair the damaged ligament. Most MCL and LCL injuries heal without the need for surgery, but badly torn or stretched ACL and PCL injuries often require surgery to replace the damaged ligament. Following surgery, physical therapy helps ensure the best long-term outcome.
How long it takes until you can resume normal activities depends on the extent of the injury. Never return to exercise until you get permission from your doctor, the pain and swelling are gone, and your injured knee feels as strong as your healthy knee. Overdoing it before your knee has had time to fully heal can lead to permanent, irreversible damage.