Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) injury

It’s been a frustrating past few months.  I was just getting over my separated rib, or costochondral separation when I sustained another medium term (4-8 weeks) injury.  I’m even more frustrated when I think of the extra time that I will be losing to rehab instead of getting back into the gym to train BJJ.  Gotta think in the present though because you can’t change the past.  I am taking steps to rehab so I can return to normal activities.

How it happened…

At the last minute I decided to participate in my high school alumni lacrosse game and relive the glory days.  It was fun but if I knew I was going to be sidelined for weeks I definitely would have stayed home.  Especially considering the fact that at the previous alumni game two years ago I sustained a separated shoulder!

I was having fun, schooling the old timers.  My team was winning by a substantial margin and the time was running out.  I decided to score one more goal before calling it quits and took a long pole defender one on one to the goal.  I was running when I felt my left leg hyperextend and felt a sharp pain at my knee.

I immediately passed the ball off and hobbled off the field.  I knew I was done playing for the day so I started taking my equipment off.  It was sore but wasn’t really that painful so I wasn’t too concerned about it.  I iced it over the next few days and expected to get better within a week.

I stayed away from running on the treadmill and used only the ARC trainer and elliptical (which I hate) to decrease the stress on my knee.  The funny thing is that the injury doesn’t cause a whole lot of pain, a little discomfort and throbbing off and on but nothing major.  The pain is definitely there when I put pressure on it with my fingers and when I sit down, when kneeling, the pressure and discomfort get substantially higher.

lateral collateral ligament

lateral collateral ligament

Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL)

Finally after almost 3 weeks I did some research and came to the conclusion that I am suffering from somewhere between 1 – 2 grade Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) injury.  The Lateral Collateral Ligament runs along the outside of the knee from the bottom of the femur to the top of the fibula and acts as one of the stabilizers for the knee.  It is actually less prone to injury than the medial collateral ligament a corresponding ligament that runs along the inside of the knee.

I made the self diagnosis after comparing my symptoms to the descriptions of the LCL injury:

1.  The Lateral Collateral Ligament injury can occur from a leg hyperextension. (As was the case in my injury)

2. I decided on the “between 1 – 2 grade” because

– pain is felt when the knee is damaged

– is sore when touched and knee is bent

– is aggravated by standing up from sitting position

– it has been close to 3 weeks yet the injury yet recovery seems to be minimal

Ok, great now I have self diagnosed myself…now what?  Rehab, that’s what!

It is apparent that ignoring the injury and hoping for father time to take care of the situation is not working so I have drawn an outline of what I plan to do when rehabbing based on the numerous amounts of information I have read.

I will be using Friction Therapy to basically massage the ligament and reduce the formation of scar tissue.  Here is an excerpt of what to do:

“Sit on a stool next to the injured knee and place your thumb on the head of the fibula just below the lateral knee. Now move superiorly toward the condyle of the femur with a moderate pressure. Half way toward the femur you will feel the ligament under your finger. It feels like a tight band about a quarter of an inch wide. It is sometimes easier to find if the client crosses the leg, placing the ankle of the bad knee just above the opposite knee. This causes the lateral collateral ligament to protrude out from the knee. Once you have located the ligament, palpate for where the pain is felt. This is where the primary scar tissue is located. Using your middle or index finger over the ligament, apply a friction stroke upwards, then relax as you bring your hand back to your original position. Friction five or six minutes as described above, take a break and repeat again. Most often the ligament is injured here at the joint line, but it may be injured as well toward the fibula attachment or toward the femoral attachment. In that case, those areas must be frictioned also. “
It is also recommended to do a massage to the front thigh and knee area to enhance the circulation and speed healing.  I only plan to do a few minutes of this since I use a foam roller to break up the knots in my leg muscles.  I have done this ever since suffering from an Illiotibial Band Syndrome last year (on the same leg/knee! I wonder if it’s related?).

I also plan on doing a lot of quadriceps exercises to strengthen the muscles around the Lateral Collateral Ligament.  I will only do hamstring exercises lightly as this causes the most discomfort and I am not sure if it will help or hinder recovery.

I will also be employing a TENS/EMS (Electronic Muscle Stimulation) unit  I just purchased since one of the ways to treat the injury was through electrical stimulation.  I’m actually pretty excited to try the unit out, it was a little expensive but with all the injuries I’ve been experiencing I thought it would be a good investment.

It goes without saying that I will be icing my knee after workouts and taking ibuprofen to reduce any swelling that may occur.

I’ve already had the injury for around 3 weeks and I have a mountain climbing adventure planned in two weeks so this rehab has to go smoothly and quickly or else my camping/hiking trip will not live up to my expectations!

One particular resource I found helpful with my research is:

http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/577/Collateral-Ligament%3A-Injuries-of-the-Knee