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The knee ligament injury explained: Why is it so painful?

By Robert Abong'o | Mar 14th 2022 | 3 min read
By Robert Abong'o | March 14th 2022

Man grabs troubled knee [Courtesy]

For an ardent sports fan, the term "ligament injuries" is not new. 

For an athlete who trains and performs at the highest level, at least once in their careers, they must have experienced ligament injuries. 

Ligament injuries are common in sports. 

Sports that involve heavy lifting, hard running and stretching often fail to miss athletes who end up sidelined to due ligament injuries on any given part of the body. 

Ligaments are tough, elastic connective tissues that surround a joint and attach two bones together. They help in limiting the joint's movement whilst providing support and play a role in restraining dislocation. 

One common ligament injury occurs in the knee. The four major ligaments in this area of the body connect the thighbone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). These include:

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), located at knee’s centre. It controls forward movement and spin of the shin bone.

Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), also located at the centre of the knee, controls backward movement of the shin bone. 

Medial collateral ligament (MCL), is a tissue that runs down the knee’s inner part from the femur to a point on the tibia.

Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is found on the sides of the knee and help give steadiness to the outer knee. 

Standard Sports samples the causes, symptoms and treatment of knee ligament injuries:

Causes of knee ligament injuries

One of the most common ligaments to be injured is the ACL. In sports like football and basketball, a sudden twisting motion leaves the ACL stretched or torn. It can also tear due to slowing down wrongly while in running or jumping motion.

PCL injuries are often caused by an abrupt hit to the knee. 

On the collateral ligaments, an injury can occur after a sudden hit to the outer knee. 

Signs and symptoms of knee ligament injuries

Sudden pain

A loud pop or snap sound in the knee 

Swelling (usually within) the first 24 hours 

Loose joint feeling

Incapability to put weights on the joint without feeling pain

Treatment of knee ligament injuries

Rest - You must avoid applying intense weight on your knees, especially if you feel pain

Ice - To reduce the pain and swelling in your knee, use of an ice pack for half an hour, every 3 to 4 hours. Repeat this for 2 days until the swelling fades. 

Compression - Use elastic bandages or straps to wrap your knee and prevent the swelling 

When resting, sitting or lying down, embrace raising your knee on a pillow.

The use of a knee brace helps stabilise an injured knee. 

Use of anti-inflammatory painkillers. Drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin help reduce pain and swelling. 

Strengthening exercises - Athletes should always try to stretch during exercises as a way to strengthen the knee. However, do not overstretch. 

Surgery - This entirely depends on the extend of the injury. Reconstructive ACL surgery is a common practice i.e. attaching new tissue to the torn ligaments. 

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