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Ligament Injuries in the Knee Joint

The knee joint is the most commonly injured in sports, accidents and wear and tear. The AC ligament is prone to sports injuries particularly in female athletes.

The knee is the most intricate joint in the body and the most likely to be injured because it bears the weight of the body and the stress of moving, sitting and standing. This joint not only flexes and extends, it also has slight rotation movement.

Knee Ligaments and Injury

The knee joint is composed of four bones: the femur or large bone in the thigh, the tibia in the lower leg, the fibula which runs parallel to the tibia and the patella or knee cap. Muscles, cartilage, ligaments and tendons bind these bones together at the knee joint. The quadriceps muscles stretch to the front of the knee and the hamstrings go across the back.

The four stabilizing ligaments of the knee are called the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). Ligament injuries, sprains or tears are common and can occur in sports injuries, accidents and with age related wear and tear, so sports injury and rehabilitation is often used to correct the issue.

The Cruciate Ligaments Support the Knee

The cruciate ligaments are so named because they pass the knee joint in a diagonal direction forming an “x.” The ACL runs from the end of the femur bone in the upper leg at the back of the joint, through the knee joint to the upper front surface of the tibia or shin bone of the lower leg. The PCL attaches to condyles or points on the same bones but runs diagonal to the ACL.

The ACL holds the tibia bone in place and prevents forward movement while the PCL prevents backwards movement. These ligaments are very important in stabilizing the joint in running, jogging and high impact sports that require kicking and pivoting.

The two other major ligaments of the knee joint stabilize the outer portions. The MCL is on the medial or inner side of the knee and the LCL is the ligament on the lateral or outer side.

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament is a Common Injury

ACL tears or injuries are the most common knee ligament sports injury and usually occur if the knee is suddenly jerked or twisted while the foot is stationary such as in a sudden stop, fall, a kick to the lower leg or a direct blow to the knee. ACL tears are more common in female athletes than males which may be due to the ratio of muscle to ligament in females or the effect of estrogen on ligament strength.

The MCL may also be injured in this manner. This ligament is taut when the when the knee is unbent and can be sprained or torn if there is a blow to the leg in this position. The LCL ligament is not usually damaged but can be damaged if another knee ligament is also injured.

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