Experiencing a ligament injury in the knee can be painful and debilitating. We often hear about athletes who experience torn ligaments as a result of a sports injury, but they can occur during normal activities of daily living as well. Fortunately, there are new treatments and surgical techniques to repair ligaments and reduce the pain from these injuries.
The ligaments are the bands of tissue that connect the bones in your body. There are a few types of common injuries that can occur:
ACL — The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) connects the thigh bone to the shin. Tears of the ACL are one of the most common ligament injuries.
PCL — The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) also links the thigh bone to the shin. Tears to this ligament are less common and often occur in car collisions or more serious accidents.
LCL — The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) connects the thigh bone to the fibula, which is the smaller bone located in the lower leg at the outer side of the knee. LCL tears are less common and often occur as a result of sudden force or twisting motion of the knee, when changing directions while the foot is positioned on the ground.
MCL — The medial collateral ligament (MCL) links the thigh bone to the shim bone on the inside of the knee. MCL injuries are usually caused through a direct hit to the knee, often during sports.
If you injure a ligament in your knee you will likely experience sudden and fairly severe pain. You may even hear a slight snap as the injury occurs. The area will soon begin to swell and you may actually feel looseness near the joint. Generally, with this type of injury you will not be able to put weight on the knee without experiencing significant pain.
It’s important to seek medical care as soon as possible after an injury occurs. In the event the tear is mild, your physician may recommend rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medications, followed by physical therapy to see if the tear will heal on its own. If the injury is more acute, surgical repair may be required.
Sometimes injuries that occur in the collateral ligaments (LCL and MCL) may not require surgery. However, complete tears to the cruciate ligaments (ACL and PCL) can only be repaired through surgical procedures.
Fortunately, advances in surgical expertise and medical technology are allowing orthopedic surgeons to make these repairs more proficiently. Patients are healing from the procedures more rapidly and getting back into their daily routines with less down time. Athletes are able to get back into their sport of choice in a more timely manner. The bottom line is, the faster the injury is repaired, the quicker the pain can be relieved without medication.
The first step if you suspect you may have a torn ligament in the knee is to get a physical from your primary care physician. If he or she confirms the suspicion you will be referred to an orthopedic surgeon for an assessment and review of your options. Most patients schedule procedures at their earliest convenience and are able to resume a much higher quality of life with minimal complications during the healing process.
If you would like more information about the latest surgical techniques for repairing ligament injuries, you are invited to attend the program “Knee Pain and Current Surgical Techniques for Ligament Injuries” presented by orthopedic surgeons Craig Roberto, D.O., and Frank Schlehr, M.D., with Score Performance on May 23 at 6 p.m. at 6000 Brockton Drive, Lockport. Admission is free. Advance registration is recommended — call 439-0345 — but walk-ins are very welcome.
Craig Roberto, D.O., is an orthopedic surgeon who performs surgery at Eastern Niagara Hospital and Niagara Regional Surgery Center. His office is at 6000 Brockton Drive, Lockport. For a consultation, call 439-0345. Eastern Niagara Healthlines is a special feature by Eastern Niagara Hospital. For more information, call 514-5505.