Collateral Ligaments: Medial And Lateral Structure
The collateral ligaments of the knees are found on the inside and outside of the knee joint. The collateral medial ligament and the lateral collateral ligament are actually a series of much smaller ligaments that create a web of ligaments that go in many different directions and are comprised of different layers. The medial ligament is found on the interior facing side of the knee and connects the tibia in the lower leg to the femur in the upper leg. The lateral ligament is located on the exterior facing side and connects the femur to the fibula in the lower leg.
In function these ligaments regulate the side to side movement of the knee and restrict it from making abnormal motions. Also, they prevent abnormal movement of the tibia backwards towards the femur. In some injury situations, the medial ligament also assumes responsibility of limiting the knee’s rotation. In coordination with both the anterior cruciate ligament and the posterior cruciate ligament, proper knee motion and limitations is achieved.
In injuries involving these ligaments, the medial ligament is more susceptible to damage. Due to the complex nature of the knee’s anatomy, most problems involving the lateral or medial ligaments also involve other parts of the knee. Most frequently, the injuries are caused by traumatic contact that forces the knee inwards and stretches or tears the ligament. Commonly, these impacts are received during the course of sports competitions. These problems are usually accompanied with the following side effects: swelling, increased instability, pain at the location of injury, and a feeling that the patient’s knee is incapable of supporting any weight.
Prevention of injury to the medial and lateral ligaments can be enhanced by patients taking the necessary time to warm up properly before athletic activity. In addition, there are several exercise which can be done to strengthen and stretch these ligaments. Another precautionary step that can be taken is to practice exercises that increase a patient’s balance and coordination. The collateral ligaments can also be helped by proper choice of footwear for the activity being performed.
Treatment of medial and lateral ligaments is usually minor and the injuries rarely need surgical intervention unless they happen in conjunction with other knee problems. A lowering of physical activity and adequate rest are normally enough to facilitate healing of the ligaments. These types of problems generally heal in four to six weeks. If the condition persists, a physical therapist should be consulted for additional treatment. However, in cases where tears are complete, surgical repair or reconstruction may need to be preformed. Repairing ligaments involves either a reattachment of the ligament to the bone or sewing the ends together if the tear is present in the middle of the ligament. On the other hand, reconstruction surgeries will most likely involve a tendon graft from another part of the body. Patients who need surgery are advised to wear a brace and continue physical therapy until the knee is completely healed as collateral ligaments can take some time to heal.