Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Collateral Ligament Injuries

Collateral ligament injuries involve damage to the ligaments located on either side of the knee joint. These ligaments provide stability to the knee by preventing excessive side-to-side movement. There are two main collateral ligaments in the knee:

Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL): Located on the inner side of the knee.

Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL): Located on the outer side of the knee.

Common Symptoms

  • Pain and tenderness along the inner (MCL) or outer (LCL) side of the knee
  • Swelling and bruising around the knee joint
  • Feeling of instability or “giving way” in the knee
  • Limited range of motion
  • Stiffness and difficulty walking or bearing weight

Cause & Anatomy

  • Direct blow or trauma: A direct impact to the inner or outer side of the knee, often during contact sports.
  • Twisting or sudden change in direction: Common in sports like soccer, basketball, and skiing.
  • Overuse or repetitive stress: Activities that place repeated stress on the knee ligaments.


  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL): Runs from the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone) on the inner side of the knee.
  • Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL): Runs from the femur to the fibula (smaller bone next to the tibia) on the outer side of the knee.


Physical examination:

  • Assessing pain, swelling, and stability of the knee.

Imaging tests:

  • X-rays: To rule out fractures.
  • MRI: To provide detailed images of soft tissue and confirm the extent of ligament damage.
  • Stress tests: To evaluate the integrity of the collateral ligaments by applying pressure to the knee in different positions.


  • Strengthening exercises: Regular exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee, such as the quadriceps and hamstrings.
  • Proper technique: Using correct techniques in sports and activities to avoid undue stress on the knee.
  • Protective gear: Wearing appropriate knee braces or pads during high-risk activities.

Non-Surgical Treatment

  • Rest: Avoid activities that cause pain or stress on the knee.
  • Ice: Apply ice packs to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Compression: Use an elastic bandage or knee brace to support the knee and reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Keep the knee elevated to minimize swelling.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Physical therapy: Exercises to restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion.


  • Indications for surgery: Severe tears, especially in the LCL, or cases where non-surgical treatments fail.
  • Surgical procedures:
  • Ligament repair: Stitching the torn ends of the ligament together.
  • Ligament reconstruction: Using a graft (usually from a tendon) to replace a severely damaged ligament.


  • Physical therapy: A structured program to gradually restore knee function, strength, and flexibility.
  • Gradual return to activity: Slowly reintroducing activities and sports, typically guided by a physical therapist or doctor.
  • Bracing: Using a knee brace during activities to provide additional support during the healing process.


How long does it take to recover from a collateral ligament injury?
Recovery time varies depending on the severity of the injury. Mild sprains may heal in a few weeks, while more severe injuries, especially those requiring surgery, can take several months.

Can I continue to play sports with a collateral ligament injury?
It is not recommended to continue playing sports with a collateral ligament injury until properly evaluated and treated by a healthcare professional. Continuing to play can worsen the injury and prolong recovery.

Are collateral ligament injuries common?
Yes, they are relatively common, especially in athletes involved in contact sports or activities that require sudden changes in direction.

Do I need surgery for a collateral ligament injury?
Most MCL injuries can be treated non-surgically. Surgery is more commonly required for severe LCL injuries or when non-surgical treatments fail.

Can I prevent collateral ligament injuries?
While not all injuries can be prevented, you can reduce the risk by maintaining strong and flexible muscles around the knee, using proper techniques in sports, and wearing appropriate protective gear.

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