Ligaments are bands of tough, elastic connective tissue that surround a joint to give support and limit the joint’s movement. When ligaments are damaged, often from a sports injury, the knee joint may become unstable. A torn ligament limits knee movement, resulting in a person inability to turn or twist their leg.
Trauma can cause injury to the ligaments on the inner portion of the knee (medial collateral ligament), the outer portion of the knee (lateral collateral ligament), or within the knee (cruciate ligaments). Injuries to these areas are noticed as immediate pain, but are sometimes difficult to localize.
ACL injury and other ligament injuries can be caused by:
- 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.
- Suddenly shifting weight from one leg to the other.
These injuries are common in soccer players, football players, basketball players, skiers, gymnasts, and other athletes.
Ligament injuries are initially treated with ice packs and immobilization, with rest and elevation.
At first, it is generally recommended to avoid bearing weight on the injured joint and crutches may be required. Some patients are placed in splints or braces to immobilize the joint to decrease pain and promote healing. Arthroscopic or open surgery may be necessary to repair severe injuries.