There are four ligaments in the knee; the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the two major ligaments in the knee. It connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia) in the knee. ACL injuries are a common cause of disability in the knee in the U.S., more common in women than men, 95,000 people get them every year.
The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is the second major ligament in the knee connecting the femur to the tibia in the knee. The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) connects the femur to the fibula, the smaller bone of the lower leg on the lateral or outer side of the knee. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) also connects the femur to the tibia on the medial or in side of the knee.
Knee ligament injury is commonplace in athletics and can be very painful and debilitating injuries requiring physical therapy and/or surgery. Most common means of injuries that affect the ligaments of the knee are; twisting your knee with the foot planted, getting hit on the knee, extending the knee too far, jumping and landing on a flexed knee, stopping suddenly when running, or suddenly shifting weight from one leg to the other, or as I had the misfortune of experiencing, falling and entangling the leg on the way down and hanging from your leg. If any of these happen you may find yourself sitting for awhile.
Conditioning the muscles of the legs can help to minimize risk of injury but it won”t eliminate the risk. Even the most physically fit athlete can still experience a knee injury. Basketball players may twist or land “wrong” and injure their knee. Football players may take a hit to legs or have their leg twisted when tackled, and don”t forget baseball, soccer, and volleyball, all of these activities have high risk for knee injuries.
But you don”t have to be an athlete to suffer a knee ligament injury, you can twist your knee doing lawn work or even just walking down the stairs depending on your physical condition. The elderly are especially prone to injuries of the hip but may injure their knee as well just doing routine daily activities.
If you ever have the misfortune of a knee ligament injury you will most likely have to go through physical therapy that involves wearing a knee brace to support the knee and maintain proper joint alignment while it is heeling, and using crutches or a cane to assist you while walking. A physical therapist will assist you in various activities to stretch and strengthen the knee joint and surrounding muscles and probably use a handheld ultrasound device to massage the joint to promote healing.
Knee injuries may take several months to heal enough to walk unassisted and may take a year or more to completely heal. Persons of age or poor health may never fully recover and may experience lifetime complications from a knee injury. So a word to the wise, pay attention to what you are doing when participating in strenuous activities and this may be the biggest factor in reducing your risks.