Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL)

The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is a thin band of tissue that runs along the outside of the knee. Thousands of people every year have LCL injuries, including stretches, partial tears or complete tears. An LCL injury is usually a result of the knee joint being pushed from the inside of the leg during an accident, sports or a fall. 

The good news is that if you have an LCL injury of any type, at the University of Michigan Health System we have the expertise to diagnose and treat your condition with a variety of non-surgical and surgical options. As one of the oldest and most well-regarded orthopaedic units in the country, we have spent thousands of hours treating LCL injuries such as yours. 

We use an integrated multidisciplinary approach that will result in an individualized treatment plan just for you -- making sure to include all areas of the U-M Health System that are involved in your care.

Our goal is to improve the quality of your life. 

Note:  If you have injured your knee, you should seek medical attention soon so that you don't do more harm to any of the ligaments. 

Symptoms

A doctor should make the diagnosis, but typical symptoms include:

  • Knee gives way or feels like it is going to give way
  • Knee swelling
  • Locking or catching of the knee with movement
  • Numbness or weakness in the foot if the peroneal nerve (near the ligament) is stretched during the injury or is pressed by swelling in the surrounding tissues
  • Pain along the outside of the knee

Diagnosis

When you come to the University of Michigan:

  • We will take your medical history, ask you about your pattern of symptoms and conduct a physical exam.
  • We can diagnose an LCL during a physical exam. 
  • We may conduct tests such as X-rays and may order an MRI. 

Then we will use all of this information to develop an individualized treatment plan for you. 

Treatment

Non-surgical Treatment for an LCL Tear

Your doctor may recommend treatments such as:

  • Applying ice to the area
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Raising the knee above heart level
  • Physical therapy 
  • Wearing a lightweight cast, brace or splint

Surgical Treatment for an LCL Tear

Surgery is often not needed when only the LCL has been torn. However, this ligament is often injured during significant trauma such as a knee dislocation, which may require surgery. It is also common for LCL injuries to occur along with other ligament injuries, including ACL tears, PCL tears and other damage within the knee. This increases the need for surgery. 

Contact Us / Make an Appointment

  • MedSport, 877-877-9333, or 734-930-7400
  • Orthopaedics, 734-936-5780
  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR), 734-936-7175

Selecting a health care provider is a very important decision. Because we are highly experienced in successfully treating all types of knee injuries, we would like to help you explore your options. Visit our Contact Us page to see a list of Musculoskeletal Call Centers. Our staff will be glad to talk with you about your options and how we can help.