Ligament Injuries and Athletic Activity
There are four main ligaments that stabilize the knee joint. Two ligaments stabilize the knee from side-to-side movements and are located on either side of the knee: the medial (inside) collateral (side) ligament and the lateral (outside) collateral ligament. Two additional ligaments stabilize the knee joint from front-to-back movement and are located inside the knee joint. They are called the anterior (front) cruciate ligament and the posterior (back) cruciate ligament.
ACL Ligament Injury:
Of all the ligament injuries, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is commonly the most seriously disrupted ligament in the knee. The ACL is often torn when someone decelerates and makes a sharp cutting motion or when the knee is hit from the front when the foot is planted. The athlete will often feel/hear a “pop” and experience pain. Often other knee joint structures (i.e., medial collateral ligament; meniscus) may also be injured when the ACL is injured, thus making the knee unstable.
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) are injured when the knee joint receives a blow from either side of the knee, especially when the same foot is planted on the ground. The ligament on the opposite side of the blow is the ligament injured. Example: When an opponent falls onto the outside knee of a player, the inside ligament (MCL) receives the stress. If the stress is greater than the ligament can handle, the ligament becomes sprained or torn.
Treatment of Ligament Injuries:
It is important for the knee injury to be seen by an athletic trainer or team physician as soon as possible in order for joint structures to be tested. It is more difficult to test for knee joint damage when swelling is allowed to develop. If you are not able to have a qualified person test the knee, apply the R.I.C. E. principle and transport the athlete to a physician for proper diagnosis and care.
Reprinted with the permission of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
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