KNEE LIGAMENT INJURY
Four main ligaments work together to strengthen and stabilize the knee joint-the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments (ACL and PCL), and the medial and lateral collateral ligaments (MCL and LCL). These ligaments can be sprained or ruptured by a sudden twisting movement. In runners, injury can be the result of repeated abnormal strain, twisting as a result of poor technique, or slipping and twisting the knee when you change direction. Often ligament injury is complicated by damage to the cartilage that cushions the knee joint–the meniscus.Untreated knee ligament injury can lead to long term pain and permanent instability.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
There will be severe pain and swelling around your knee if you have strained one or more ligaments–you may even have heard a “pop” at the time of the injury if the ligament is ruptured. Your knee is likely to feel unstable and you may not be able to move or straighten it or put any weight on it.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?
Stop training and immobilize your knee. If possible, follow the RICE procedure. Do not apply a compression bandage or raise the leg if it causes discomfort. Seek urgent medical help. Your doctor will usually make a diagnosis from a physical examination, but may recommend an X-ray or MRI scan to confirm the ligament injury or establish whether any other part of the joint is damaged, for example the cartilage. If you have a mid to moderate sprain, you may need to wear a knee brace and use crutches for two to three weeks. You will be prescribed pain relief medication and will need to undergo an extensive physical therapy rehabilitation programme. If you have ruptured a ligament, you will need surgery and probably be advised to wear a knee brace for up to six weeks afterwards to stabilize the joint while it heals. Once the brace is removed you can begin physical therapy.
WHEN CAN I RETURN TO RUNNING?
For a mid to moderate sprain, you should ve able to return to training within two to 12 weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. If you have had surgery, then 8 to 12 months of recovery may be required after the operation. However, if your injury is severe, for example you have a complex injury that damaged more than one ligament, or other parts of your knee, such as the meniscus, are injured you may not be able to return to running again.