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Lateral Collateral Ligament Sprain

Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) sprain is a knee injury that occurs when the ligament on the outer side of the knee is stretched or torn. A ligament is a strong band of tissue that connects a bone to another. The lateral collateral ligament attaches the distal (bottom) portion of your thigh bone or femur to your outer leg bone called the fibula.

Stretching or tearing of the LCL can be caused by a direct blow to the knee on the inner side or twisting motion of the leg.

Severity of the Sprain

Severity of LCL sprain depends on whether stretching only or tearing occurs. Typically, severity is graded as I, II, or III.
  • Grade I or Mild Sprain

    In grade I sprain, there is stretching of the ligament but no tearing occurs.
  • Grade II or Moderate Sprain

    Tearing of the ligament occurs. However, the tear is incomplete.
  • Grade III Severe Sprain

    A grade III sprain occurs when there is complete tearing of the ligament and the knee joint may become unstable.


Depending on the severity of injury, symptoms may include:
  • Pain on the outer side of the knee
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Joint instability - feeling of your knee giving way


The first goal of treatment for lateral collateral ligament sprain is to reduce swelling and pain in the first day or two. Most minor injuries can be managed with RICE regimen or therapy.

Rest: Rest the injured area for one to two days to help in healing and allow swelling and pain to subside.
Ice: Apply ice pack (wrapped in towel) over the injured area for 20 minutes at a time. You can do this 4 to 8 times a day. Ice application helps to relieve pain and swelling.
Compression: Compress the injured area using elastic bandage to control swelling. Your physical therapist can teach you how to properly apply the bandage.
Elevation: While resting, elevate your injured limb by placing a pillow underneath it.

More severe cases may require casting or surgery to repair the torn ligament.

After pain and swelling has subsided, rehabilitation may start. The goal of rehabilitation is to restore normal function of the knee and to increase strength and flexibility.

Physical Therapy Treatment Options for Lateral Collateral Ligament Sprain:
  • Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate (RICE)
  • Passive Range of Motion (PROM) or Active Range of Motion (AROM) exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Train for can or crutch use if needed
  • Recommend a knee brace
  • Patient education

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