Staying active is critical for every individual’s life. However, an active lifestyle can also make you vulnerable to various injuries. One such injury is a knee ligament tear.

A knee ligament tear can happen due to performing high-intensity activities that might stretch or strain the ligaments surrounding the knee joints. The damage can be severely debilitated when left untreated, leading to permanent immobility.

Ligaments are a network of elastic and touch connective tissues surrounding the knee joint to support the movements and hold a joint with each other. When the ligaments are torn or damaged, the knee joints become unstable, severely limiting mobility. 

Therefore, if you believe you have experienced a knee ligament tear, an overview of causes and treatments will be helpful for a speedy recovery. So, without further ado, let’s discuss the causes of knee ligament tears below.

Causes of Knee Ligament Tear

Knee ligament injuries can affect almost any individual despite age and gender. This rupture can be either partial or complete. That said, below are some causes of ligament tears in your knee.

  • Direct Injury to the Knee

Research suggests that direct injury, a blow to your knee, or knocking into hard objects can result in torn ligaments. 

  • Twisting or Turning of the Knee

When your knee moves beyond its usual range of motion, it can cause a ligament tear. It might happen during sports or a fall when you unusually turn or twist your knees.

  • Repetitive Stress on the Knee

Performing high-impact activities or overusing the knee joints might increase the stress on your ligaments, resulting in potential ligament damage. 

Symptoms of Knee Ligament Tear

If you have injured the ligaments, you may notice one or more of the following knee ligament tear symptoms based on the degree of the damage. 

  • Pain

Ligament injury causes severe pain accompanied by a popping sound in case of damage due to a traumatic accident. You may also experience sharp pain along the joints while performing daily activities. 

  • Swelling and Stiffness

An injury or ligament tear will also cause stiffness in the knee joints. You often notice visible swelling over the injured side, leading to pain. 

  • Difficulty walking or standing

Your knees will buckle when you try to stand or walk with the injured ligaments. You won’t be able to move your knees while walking or strolling.

  • Knee Instability

A torn ligament makes your knee joint unstable. This symptom will make it challenging for you to pivot, turn or twist the entire leg. 

Types of Knee Ligament Tear

Four major ligaments in the knee joints connect the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (Shin’s bone). We have listed the types of knee ligament tears in detail below.

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear

The anterior cruciate ligament is located in the centre of the knee that controls forward motion and rotations of the shin bone. It has a strong-rope-like structure that is vulnerable to damage from activities including soccer, football and basketball. The severity of the condition ranges from a mild sprain to a complete ligament tear, which requires frequent surgical interventions.

  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Tear

The medial collateral ligament provides stability to the inner knee joints. A tear or injury to the ligaments while engaging in impactful activities like skiing can cause detrimental effects. Though, it is treatable with conservative medicinal approaches. 

  •  Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Tear

The posterior cruciate ligament is situated at the back of the knee and tends to control the backward movement of the shin bone. Injury to the PCL is a rare condition that frequently happens due to direct trauma or unexpected fall on the knee joints. However, you can get it treated without requiring surgery.

  •  Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Tear

The lateral collateral ligament stabilises the outer knee and controls sideway movements. LCL injuries commonly occur when trying to brace them against atypical movements.

It is generally accompanied by severe pain and instability or immobility to the joints. You can recover from these injuries with surgery. 

Diagnosis of Knee Ligament Tear

  • Physical Examination

Your healthcare professional will perform a complete physical examination and examine your knee joint to check for swelling, stiffness or other problems. They will discuss the symptoms and ask you to move your knee in various positions to analyse the range of movement and stability of the joints. 

  • Imaging Tests

X-ray- It rules out the other causes of injury instead of ligament tears. This imaging test uses energy beams to get a detailed picture of internal times, bones and other organs.

MRI – Using radio waves, large magnets, and a computer, Magnetic resonance imaging tests provide intricate details of organs and structures of the body. This scan is often suggested to determine damage in bones and surrounding soft tissues like ligaments and tendons. 

Treatment Options for Knee Ligament Tear

Depending on the type of ligament injury, severity, symptoms and lifestyle, the orthopaedic specialist will choose the best knee ligament tear treatment for you.

Non-Surgical Treatment

  • RICE Therapy

Studies show that RICE is an important principal therapy after a ligament injury.

  1. Rest the injured area for at least 48 hours. You can use crutches to avoid putting stress on the leg.
  2. Apply an ice pack to decrease swelling. Repeat the process for 20 minutes and avoid direct eye contact with the skin.
  3. Compression bandages will prevent inflammation and further damage to the injured area.
  4. Elevation can prevent additional swelling by putting your leg higher than the heart. 
  • Physical Therapy

This therapy is often suggested to regain motion, reduce inflammation and strengthen the muscles around the joints. A therapist will suggest specific exercise patterns to repair the torn ligament and restore the complete range of motion of the knee joints. 

  • Knee Braces

A knee brace will help stabilise your joints and prevent sudden sideways movements that cause ligament injury. It also promotes healing from the ligament sprain or strain with a shorter recovery time. 

Surgical Treatment 

If your ligament tear is associated with injuries or is completely torn, leaving no way for normal healing, your healthcare professional will recommend a surgical procedure. 

The reconstruction surgery to correct ACL, PCL, MCL, and LCL tears involves the replacement of the damaged ligament with a healthy tendon. The procedure is a minimally invasive arthroscopic approach with fewer complications and high-accuracy results.

  • Prevention of Knee Ligament Tear

No player, or any individual, for that matter, wants to be sidelined with a ligament tear in their life. At times, it will impact the complete range of motion. Here are some simple ways to prevent the risk of ligament tears. 

  • Proper Warm-Up and Stretching

Before participating in sports or any other high-impact activities, stretching and warm-up before it properly is important. You should also understand the proper body posture and mechanisms to reduce the likelihood of ligament damage with further strains.

  • Strengthening Exercises

The health and stability of your ligaments depend on the flexibility and strength of the surrounding muscles. Therefore, incorporating strengthening exercises in your regimen will help you enhance the muscles’ flexibility, agility and core strength. It will effectively avoid the straining movements that might lead to potential ligament injury. 

  • Wearing Protective Gear During Sports

Injuries and sports go hand in hand. Wearing protective clothing will prevent or reduce the impact of injuries on your bones, joints, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues. 


Most people suffering from knee ligament tears tend to have the most active lifestyles. Though the condition is common among athletes and sports players, individuals who follow a high degree of physical activity in their daily routine are also affected. A torn ligament will cause pain when left untreated and make the patients face long-term alterations to their active lifestyle.

Therefore, choosing the most appropriate treatment plan is important based on the early and specific injury diagnosis and medical history. In addition, implementing healthy exercise changes and wearing protective devices during sports will let you enjoy your active lifestyle without compromising your health in the long term.

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