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Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Injury: Care Instructions

Inside view of the knee joint, showing the lateral collateral ligament, the medial collateral ligament, and the femur, fibula, and tibia

Overview

The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is a band of tissue on the outside of your knee. It connects your thigh bone (femur) to the bone of your lower leg (fibula). It helps keep the knee from bending outward. You can sprain or tear this ligament during activities that involve bending, twisting, or a quick change of direction. The ligament might be injured in sports such as football or soccer when the inside of the knee is hit.

Minor LCL injuries usually get better with treatment at home. Your doctor may suggest that you wear a brace. It can help support your knee. You may need physiotherapy for a moderate injury. A severe tear may need surgery. Depending on how bad the injury is, healing could take weeks or months.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Put ice or a cold pack on your knee for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours (when you're awake) for the first 3 days after your injury or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Prop up your leg on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down. Do this for about 3 days after your injury. Try to keep your knee above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Take anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce pain and swelling. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Follow instructions about how much weight you can put on your leg and how to walk with crutches, if your doctor recommends them.
  • Wear a brace, if your doctor recommends it, to protect and support your knee while it heals. Wear it as directed.
  • Do stretches or strength exercises as your doctor suggests.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse pain.
  • Your foot is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • Your foot or toes are tingly, weak, or numb.
  • You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness or swelling in your leg.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter L255 in the search box to learn more about "Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Injury: Care Instructions".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.