Collateral Ligament Tear at the Knee

A collateral ligament tear in the knee is either the lateral or medial ligament tear, or both ligaments. As a result of the rupture (tear), the knee joint loses its stability and functionality.

Collateral Ligament Tear at the Knee

What is a collateral ligament tear in the knee?

A collateral ligament tear in the knee always affects either the lateral ligament on the outside or the inner ligament on the inside of the knee. In addition to muscles and tendons, there are also several ligaments on the knee to stabilize the knee joint. See ablogtophone for NCAA which stands for National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The lateral ligaments are on the right and left, and there are two cruciate ligaments within the joint. The inner ligament runs slightly obliquely from the femur to the tibia. It is relatively wide and is attached to the joint capsule that encloses the knee joint and to parts of the meniscus (cartilage disc).

The lateral ligament runs from the femur to the fibula. It is slightly narrower and is not connected to the joint capsule. In the event of a collateral ligament tear, one or both ligaments tear and the knee joint loses its stability. As a rule, the collateral ligaments tear completely, incomplete tears are rather rare.


The cause of a collateral ligament rupture is usually a rapid, sudden twisting movement in the knee. Collateral ligament tears are common in sports, especially football and skiing. Whether the ligaments withstand the excessive strain or tear is sometimes genetically determined.

Statistics show that women tear ligaments faster than men. But your physical condition also plays a role. Those who are trained and do sports often, their ligaments are more resilient. People who move less or are also overweight have a higher risk of torn collateral ligaments.

A typical movement that causes a collateral ligament tear in ball sports is a sudden change of direction in a running movement. The foot is still on the ground in the original running direction, the upper body is already turning in the new direction and the knee is twisted suddenly and violently. When skiing, a collateral ligament tear often happens when the bindings don’t open or when the skis go in different directions due to inexperience.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

A lateral tear on the knee is often a very painful matter, which is therefore accompanied by typical and clear symptoms. Immediately after the tear, there is a stabbing pain that persists even at rest. Even the smallest movements and loads on the knee cause severe pain.

It is not uncommon for a visible swelling to occur in this context, which can be seen directly on the knee. In particularly severe cases, an abscess can form, which should definitely be treated by a doctor. Affected people who decide to have treatment early can expect a significant improvement within a few weeks.

From day to day, the knee can be loaded more, provided that there is a doctor’s approval. If you start with such a burden too early, you can prolong the entire healing process. A tendon rupture in the knee can sometimes be a lengthy affair.

The more the affected knee is spared and immobilized, the faster the healing process progresses. Of course, medical and drug treatment has a positive effect on the healing process. If left untreated, full recovery cannot be guaranteed. Under certain circumstances, serious complications can occur that lead to permanent consequential damage to the knee.

Diagnosis & History

The collateral ligament tear is immediately noticed by a strong pain. Sometimes you can even hear the sound of the ribbon snapping. The affected person can no longer stand up and the knee has lost its functionality.

As the torn ligaments bleed, blood flows to the tissue around the knee joint, causing it to swell. The bruise (hematoma) causes a blue discoloration around the knee.

The doctor usually recognizes from the typical symptoms and the description of the accident process that a collateral ligament tear may be present. Examination of the knee joint is usually difficult because the patient is in severe pain and mobility is difficult to test under these circumstances.

If one of the two collateral ligaments is torn, the doctor can determine this by opening the joint to the side, which is not possible with intact ligaments. An X-ray is used to check whether any bone parts are damaged. The collateral ligament tear can be clarified without a doubt with an MRT examination (magnetic resonance imaging).


First and foremost, a collateral ligament tear in the knee causes very severe pain. In many cases, these can also spread to the neighboring regions, so that severe pain can also occur in the leg. Those affected also usually suffer from bruising and severe swelling in the knee area.

Furthermore, this complaint leads to considerable limitations in movement and thus also in the everyday life of the person concerned. Most patients can no longer walk on their own and need a walking aid or are dependent on the help of other people in their everyday life. In children, a torn collateral ligament in the knee can also lead to developmental restrictions.

If the pain also occurs at night, this can lead to sleep problems and possibly to irritability of the person concerned and psychological problems. This condition is usually treated with medication and resting the knee. There are no complications. In some cases, however, those affected are also dependent on surgical interventions.

When should you go to the doctor?

A collateral ligament tear in the knee must always be examined and treated by a doctor. As a rule, this disease cannot heal itself, so that the patient is always dependent on medical treatment. Correct healing can only be guaranteed by early and correct treatment. A doctor should be consulted for a collateral ligament rupture in the knee if the affected person suffers from very severe pain in the knee.

The pain occurs even with minor movements and loads and can also spread to other regions of the body. An abscess usually forms as well, and most patients also have bruising or severe swelling of the knee. If these symptoms occur, a doctor should be consulted in any case. A doctor should be consulted, especially after an accident or after a serious injury.

A torn collateral ligament in the knee can be treated by an orthopedist. In the event of severe pain or immediately after an accident, you can go to the hospital or call an ambulance. In most cases, the collateral ligament tear on the knee does not limit the life expectancy of the person affected.

Treatment & Therapy

A collateral ligament tear in the knee should be treated immediately with acute treatment. The so-called PECH scheme is used here.

  1. P like Pause: The ongoing activity must be stopped immediately.
  2. E like ice: The joint should be cooled immediately. In the event of a skiing accident, snow is a good idea, otherwise simple cool compresses are also useful.
  3. C for Compression: A pressure bandageis applied around the knee joint to keep the swelling within limits.
  4. H as in Elevation: The leg should be elevated, as this allows blood and tissue fluid to drain and does not accumulate in the knee joint.

Further therapy depends on the extent of the damage. Some collateral ligament tears can be treated conservatively (without surgery). The leg is stabilized with a splint for several weeks. If other structures and bone parts are also injured, an operation is usually unavoidable.

In a surgical procedure, the ligament parts are rejoined or completely removed and replaced with another endogenous tendon. After both conservative and surgical treatment of a collateral ligament tear, patients have to do physiotherapy exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee joint for several weeks.


You cannot prevent a collateral ligament tear, as it usually happens as a result of an accident. However, some sports such as ball sports or skiing have an increased risk of a collateral ligament tear.


The collateral ligament tear on the knee is an injury that requires consistent follow-up care in order to optimize regeneration and achieve the best possible success. Follow-up care can be arranged with physiotherapists and rehabilitation sports instructors, but also with fitness trainers or the doctor treating you. It is important to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint in order to achieve lasting stabilization of the joint.

In the case of a torn collateral ligament, the adductors and abductors, as well as the external and internal rotators, need to be strengthened in this context. It is the muscles that perform the abduction and bringing in of the leg as well as its turning movements inwards and outwards. The best way to do this is with strength training. Weights are one way to do this, but resistance bands can also do the trick. However, weight training on machines offers the advantage that guided movements are less prone to injury.

The training should be carried out with the greatest possible protection of the injured structures. Overloads must be avoided. Gentle stretching of the muscles is also important. In everyday life, protection is also of great importance. Severe bending with twisting movements in the knee joint should be avoided under all circumstances. Aftercare should also focus on sturdy shoes or walking barefoot in the apartment or on the lawn. If a knee bandage has been recommended, the doctor or therapist will decide how long it should be worn.

You can do that yourself

The collateral ligament tear on the knee requires medical care, but both the acute phase and regeneration can certainly be supported as part of self-help. In this context, it is important to protect the knee for the period specified by the doctor or physiotherapist. In the case of a torn collateral ligament on the knee, this applies above all to lateral loads on the knee, which can have unfavorable effects on the stability of the respective inner or outer ligament. Athletes must be careful not to return to their usual training too early.

Muscle training is an important factor in comprehensively stabilizing the affected knee joint again. The muscles on the outside and inside of the leg are particularly important in this context, but training the leg flexors and extensors is also valuable support. The exercises can be learned from the physiotherapist and then continued either in a special rehabilitation sports program or in the fitness studio. This is to be carried out with a dosed, slowly increasing load.

In the acute phase, a torn collateral ligament in the knee is often associated with pain and swelling as well as a hematoma. Here it is helpful to cool the affected tissue and to position the affected leg in a stable and slightly elevated position. A lateral twisting is to be avoided in any case. This also applies to sleeping at night, where the knee can be stabilized in bed with various pillows.