Elbow Issues

Collateral Ligament Injuries

Causes
The collateral ligaments can be torn in sporting activities, such as skiing or football. The injury usually occurs when the lower leg is forced sideways, either toward the other knee (medially) or away from the other knee (laterally). A blow to the outside of the knee while the foot is planted can result in a tear of the MCL. Slipping on ice can cause the foot to move outward, taking the lower leg with it. The body weight pushing down causes an awkward and unnatural force on the whole leg, much like bending a green stick. The MCL may be torn in this instance because the force hinges the medial part of the knee open, putting stress on the MCL. Repetitive activities that involve forceful rotation of the lower leg such as the whip kick in swimming may also cause the MCL to break down or tear over time.

The LCL is most often injured when the knee is forced to hinge outward away from the body. It can also be torn if the knee gets snapped backward too far (hyperextended).

Symptoms
An injury violent enough to actually tear one of the collateral ligaments causes significant damage to the soft tissues around the knee. There is usually bleeding and swelling into the tissues surrounding the knee. The damage may also cause bleeding into the knee joint itself. The knee becomes stiff and painful especially when putting weight on that leg. As the initial stiffness and pain subside the knee joint may feel unstable, and the knee may give way and not support your body weight.

Chronic, or long-term, instability due to an old injury to the collateral ligaments is a common problem. If the torn ligament heals but is not tight enough to support the knee, a feeling of instability will continue to be felt. The knee will give way at times and may be painful with heavy use.