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Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Injury

Other popular names

Who does it affect?

Normally people involved in impact sports such as rugby as well as serious road traffic accidents .

Why does it happen?

Isolated lateral collateral ligament (LCL) injuries are relatively uncommon but can occur when there is forced medial deviation of the lower leg relative to the knee; however, most LCL injuries occur as part of a complex knee ligament injury.


Following an LCL injury, patients will typically experience pain, swelling and localized tenderness over the outside (lateral) aspect of the knee.


An MRI Scan is often used to confirm this injury and if there is a complete tear to the ligament. 

Non-surgical treatment

Surgery is usually required to repair the injured ligament as when treated without surgery, injury to this ligament tends to lead to significant instability. 

Surgical treatment

LCL reconstruction surgery involves a general or spinal anaesthetic as a day case or overnight stay.

The procedure is usually performed arthroscopically (through keyhole surgery) and is aimed at replacing the deficient LCL with a graft ligament to stabilise the knee.

If reconstruction is necessary then it is reconstructed along the same principles as with an ACL reconstruction, using the medial hamstring tendons with an arthroscopically assisted technique. 

Post-surgery rehabilitation

Most patients are able to return home on the same day as surgery or the following day.  All patients will need someone to take them home and be with them on the night following surgery.

The anaesthetic will wear off after approximately 6 hours.  Simple analgesia (pain killers) usually controls the pain and should be started before the anaesthetic has worn off. 

Patients need to use crutches for the first 2 weeks following surgery although they can fully weight-bear - the crutches are mainly to prevent falls until good muscle control has been regained to the leg.


The large bandage around the knee is normally removed 24-48 hours after surgery and a tubigrip to supply gentle compression to reduce post-operative swelling.

The non-stick sterile dressings on the wounds are replaced with clean waterproof dressings .  The larger incision over the site of the hamstring tendon harvest site is closed using dissolving stitches and the paper butterfly sutures overlying this can be peeled away easily after 10 days.

Return to normal routine

Bathing and showering

The wounds should be kept clean and dry until the wound has sealed. Showering is fine and the waterproof dressings can be changed afterwards. Bathing is best avoided until the wounds are sealed, typically 10 days after surgery.
In summary, whilst the wounds are wet - keep them dry and when the wounds are dry, you can get them wet!


Surgery is followed by a prolonged course of physiotherapy. This requires a commitment to undertake this rehabilitation in order to achieve the best possible result (at least half an hour per day for 6 months).  It is vitally important to stay within the post-operative activity restrictions an physiotherapy guidelines to avoid damaging stretching your reconstructed ligament.

Return to work

The timing of your return to work depends on the type of work and your access, however, the following is a general guide:


When you can walk without crutches or a limp and be in control of your vehicle (about 4-6 weeks).


LCL reconstruction is an extremely safe and reliable operation. However there is a risk of problems or complications with any surgery.

These risks include:

All these risks are uncommon and in total, the chance of you or your knee being worse off in the long term is about or less than 1%.

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