The knee includes four main ligaments: the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL). These ligaments function as stabilizers for the knee joint. The cruciate ligaments are responsible for controlling forward and backward motion of the tibiofemoral joint while the collateral ligaments resist valgus and varus, or medial and lateral, force at the knee. All 4 ligaments help to control rotation of the knee.
Any one of these ligaments can be injured in high level athletes are people participating in sports recreationally. The ACL and MCL are the most commonly injured ligaments of the knee, accounting for % of knee pain. Teenage females are most at risk for a knee ligament sprain. Prevention is key for high school athletes when it comes to knee sprains. Proper muscle activation and muscle balance especially between the hamstrings and the quadriceps is crucial in preventing ACL tears. Hip strength and control of the femur also plays a major role in knee stability.
There are multiple grades of a ligament sprain: grade 1, grade 2 and grade 3. Based on the severity of the sprain or tear, surgery may or may not be required to repair the damage. Grade 1 strains typically involve a stretching of the ligament, no tearing to the tissue, and minimal loss of function. Grade 2 strains are often associated with partial tearing of the tearing and have a moderate effect on function. Grade 3 strains are a complete tear of the ligament that can have a significant impact on overall function and daily activity. Grades 1 and 2 typically respond well to conservative treatment and physical therapy especially for those that are not anticipating returning to higher level sports. Grade 3 are more likely to require surgical intervention, however, even with a complete rupture of a ligament people are able to adapt and proceed with their normal daily activities without surgery. If you have concerns regarding whether surgical intervention is your best course we encourage you to speak to your doctor.
How does physical therapy help?
After sustaining a knee ligament sprain you will likely experience swelling, loss of range of motion and strength. Physical therapy will help to reduce your swelling, improve the range of motion of your knee and strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee, especially your quadriceps. Injury to the knee often causes the quads to shut down temporarily so it is important to learn how to properly activate them in functional patterns for good stability. Additionally, properly activating and utilizing your glutes will be important to provide further stability of your injured leg. If surgery is required, the physical therapists at F.I.T. can provide your 3-4 month course of rehab to get you back to full function!
New Patients are Always Welcome!
The doctors at F.I.T. Muscle & Joint Clinic in Overland Park & Shawnee, Kansas and Lees Summit, Missouri are here to help lessen and relieve your pain. Do not hesitate; contact us today for leading evidence-based assessments and treatments for your musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction.