Overstretched or Torn Ligaments of the Knee
Ligaments are strong, but flexible, bands of tissue that connect bones around joints to stabilize them. In the knee joint, there are four main ligaments: the medial collateral ligament (MCL), lateral collateral ligament (LCL), anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). If these ligaments are overstretched or hit, injury can occur.
- The MCL and LCL run along each side of your knee. Injuries to these ligaments typically occur because the knee is hit from the outside or inside or twisted awkwardly.
- The ACL, which is in the middle of your knee, can be injured if you stop moving too suddenly, change direction too quickly, make a wrong landing from a jump or get hit in the knee from the front.
- The PCL, which is located deeper within the knee behind the ACL, can be injured if your knee is hit with a great deal of force while it is bent.
A knee ligament injury can be either partial (the ligament is loose and partially torn) or complete (the ligament is completely torn).
Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook
The signs and symptoms of a knee ligament injury are:
- Pain and swelling of the knee (MCL and LCL injuries cause pain on the sides of the knee, while ACL and PCL injuries cause pain in the center)
- A popping sound at the time of injury
- An unstable feeling in the affected knee
- Inability to bear weight on the affected knee
- A loss in range of motion
The pain and swelling may go away when you rest, but then return when you’re active. If you can’t walk or the pain and swelling don’t improve after a few days of rest, make an appointment with an orthopaedic and sports medicine specialist. He or she can diagnose your injury through a physical exam and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) when indicated. A quick diagnosis is important to prevent further damage to your knee.
Some knee ligament injuries require surgery to fully restore the function of the knee. This is especially true if you’re an athlete looking to return to your sport. Mild knee ligament injuries can sometimes be rehabilitated with only rest and possibly physical therapy, guided by your doctor’s advice.
Experts in Care
Meet our doctors, view their profiles and select the one that’s right for you.Find a doctor near you
Why Choose Penn State Health for Care
Penn State Health includes the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, ranked as one of the best orthopaedic providers in the country by U.S. News & World Report. This honor was earned because our doctors consistently deliver exceptional patient care and outcomes through their commitment to state-of-the-art treatments, translational research and provider training.
The Most Comprehensive Sports Medicine Program in Central Pennsylvania
As part of Penn State Bone and Joint Institute, Penn State Sports Medicine is able to offer the most collaborative sports medicine care. Our primary care sports medicine providers work with our orthopaedic surgeons and other orthopaedic specialists to provide total care for the whole patient. This creates the best patient outcomes when combined with innovative procedures and individualized treatment plans.
Advancing Orthopaedic Medicine Through Research
The doctors and researchers in our Center for Orthopaedic Research and Translational Science at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are committed to advancing our field through scientific discovery and education. As central Pennsylvania’s only academic medical center, Hershey Medical Center is a national leader in research and on the leading edge of new treatment options, including clinical trials, in partnership with Penn State College of Medicine.
Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.
Find the care your family needs, close to home, at one of our many locations throughout central Pennsylvania.Find a location near you