Knee ligament injury

What is it?

Knee ligaments are tough fibrous structures that hold joints together and prevent abnormal movements. They are sometimes damaged during sport or following accidents. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) are the most frequently injured knee ligaments.

Medial collateral ligament: the MCL is a ligament on the inside of the knee. It is frequently injured in contact sports where the knee is forced inwards and the foot out. In non-sporting injuries it is commonly injured during slips and falls. Most MCL injuries heal well without the need for surgery, however early diagnosis and treatment are key in the prevention of long-term damage.

Anterior cruciate ligament: the ACL is a ligament deep within the knee. It is frequently injured in non-contact sports where the knee gives way when changing direction. As the knee gives way patients often feel a "pop" within the knee, followed by swelling shortly after. The ACL tears do not heal and, after recovering from the initial injury, many patients suffer repeated instability leading to further joint damage. Patients with recurrent instability or those wishing to return to high level sport may require ACL reconstruction surgery.

You may need surgery if you have the following:

  • Knee instability
  • Wish to participate in sport

Diagnosis and treatment options

Your consultant will take a detailed history of your symptoms, followed by a thorough examination of your knee. You might need some additional tests:

  • X-ray
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan

During ACL reconstruction surgery, your surgeon will take a graft from another part of your knee. This is then reattached within the knee in place of the torn ligament. This procedure is usually performed via keyhole surgery.

Knee ligament surgery is routinely performed as a day case procedure, however it does require an extended period of physiotherapy and rehabilitation in order to safely return to sport.

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