There are many ligaments within and around your knee joint that work together to help keep it stable and functioning well. The four main ligaments – and the ones commonly injured – include the two cruciate ligaments and the two collateral ligaments.
There are two cruciate ligaments called the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). These ligaments are located within the knee joint, connecting to both the bottom of the thigh bone and the top of the shin bone, where the bone ends connect at the joint. The two ligaments cross diagonally inside the knee to stop the two bones sliding backwards or forwards on one another. This means during walking, the thigh bone doesn’t just slide forwards on the shin bone, for example.
There are two collateral ligaments called the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). These flat-banded ligaments are located on the outside of the knee joint at either side, connecting to both thigh and shin bones. These ligaments work to prevent excessive side-to-side movement that would otherwise lead to significant joint damage and dislocation.
When excessive force is applied to these ligaments, this causes them to become strained and damaged, meaning they can no longer perform their function effectively until they have a chance to properly heal and repair.
Any sudden force or impact is a common cause of injury to the knee ligaments, such as from a soccer ball hitting the outside of your knee joint at high speed, or being tackled and having your body thrust forwards or backwards while your foot is firmly planted on the ground.
Aside from causing significant pain, ligament injury will often cause your knee to feel weak and unstable, and may result in stiffness or swelling, making it difficult for you to walk or bend the knee.
Treating ligament damage needs an aggressive approach, not a ‘wait and see’ method to allow the ligaments to heal well and in the shortest amount of time, without causing further damage or causing the ligament to rupture. Your podiatrist will discuss with you the best options based on the severity of the current damage and your current symptoms. Your care may include using a brace, offloading pressure from the knee joint with orthotics (if alignment issues are causing strain on the ligaments), using supportive and stabilising footwear, and then introducing a strengthening, flexibility and knee mobility program.