Knee Ligament Injury

Knee Ligament Injury

Article by John Miller

Knee Ligament Injury

Knee Ligament Tear – Knee Ligament Strain – Knee Ligament Rupture

What is a Knee Ligament?

A ligament is a short band of tough fibrous connective tissue composed of long, stringy collagen molecules. Knee ligaments connect bones to other bones in and around your knee joint. They do not connect muscles to bones; that is the function of tendons. Knee ligaments limit the amount of mobility of your knee joint or prevent specific movements altogether.

Major Knee Ligaments

knee ligaments

What Causes Knee Ligament Injuries?

You can injure a knee ligament through a sharp change in direction, landing wrong from a jump, or the most common a blunt force hit to the knee, such as in a football tackle. The incident usually needs to happen at speed. Muscle weakness or incoordination predispose you to a knee ligament sprain or tear. Overstretching your knee ligaments will result in a torn knee ligament.  Your knee physiotherapist or doctor will determine your knee ligament injury’s severity and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Knee Ligament Pain

Did you know that more severe knee ligament injuries may be less painful than milder knee ligament injuries? Why?

What Are The Symptoms Of A Torn Ligament In Your Knee?

The severity and symptoms of a ligament sprain depend on the ligament’s degree of stretching or tearing.

In a mild, grade I sprain, the ligaments may stretch, but they don’t tear. Although the joint may not hurt or swell very much, a mild sprain can increase the risk of a repeat injury.

With a moderate grade II sprain, the knee ligament tears partially. Swelling and bruising are common, and the use of the joint is usually painful and challenging.

With a severe grade III sprain, your ligament tears completely, causing swelling and sometimes bleeding under the skin. As a result, the joint is unstable and unable to bear weight. Often there will be no pain following a grade III tear as all of the pain fibres are torn at the time of injury.

knee ligament pain

How Do You Know If Your Knee Injury Is Serious?

knee ligament injury

While it is always best to seek the professional advice of a highly skilled practitioner trained in knee injuries, such as your doctor or physiotherapist, here are seven signs that could indicate a severe knee injury.

  • Obvious deformity. You may have a fracture or dislocation.
  • You heard a “pop” or “snap”.
  • You’ve experienced swelling.
  • Greater than normal movement
  • Less than usual movement, e.g. can’t straighten
  • You are unable to weight-bear on your leg
  • Your knee “gives way” or “buckles”.

If you experience any of these symptoms, please seek a prompt medical assessment.

Knee Ligament Injury Recovery Time

Treatment of a ligament injury varies depending on its location and severity.

Grade I sprains usually heal within a few weeks. Maximal ligament strength will occur after six weeks when the collagen fibres have matured. Resting from painful activity, icing the injury, and some anti-inflammatory medications are helpful. Physiotherapy will help hasten the healing process via electrical modalities, massage, strengthening, and joint exercises to guide the ligament fibres heal. Better aligned scar tissue helps to prevent a future tear.

When a grade II sprain occurs, a weight-bearing brace or some supportive taping is a conventional early treatment. This protection helps to ease the pain and avoid stretching of the healing ligament. After a grade II injury, you can usually return to activity once the joint is stable and no longer have pain. Healing may take up to six weeks. Physiotherapy helps hasten the healing process via electrical modalities, massage, strengthening, and joint exercises to guide the ligament fibres heal. Well-aligned scar tissue helps to prevent a future tear and quickly return you to your pre-injury status.

When a grade III injury occurs, you usually wear a hinged knee brace to protect the damage from weight-bearing stresses. The aim is to allow for ligament healing and gradually return to normal activities. These injuries are most successfully treated via physiotherapy and may not return to their full activity level for 3 to 4 months. We strongly recommend that you seek professional advice in these cases.

Would you please seek the advice of your trusted knee physiotherapist or a doctor with a particular interest in knee injuries? Their help will determine the best treatment for your knee ligament injury.

Common Causes - Knee Pain

Knee pain can have many origins from local injury, referred pain, biomechanical issues and systemic issues. While knee pain can appear simple to the untrained eye, a thorough assessment is often required to ascertain the origin of your symptoms. The good news is that once a definitive diagnosis is determined, most knee pain quickly resolves with the correct treatment and rehabilitation.

Knee Ligament Injuries

Knee Meniscus Injuries

Kneecap Pain

Knee Arthritis

Knee Tendon Injuries

Muscle Injuries

Knee Bursitis

Children’s Knee Conditions

Other Knee-Related Conditions

Knee Surgery

Knee FAQs

For specific information regarding your knee pain, please seek the assistance of a healthcare professional with a particular interest in knee condition, such as your knee physiotherapist.

Acute Injury Signs

Acute Injury Management.

Here are some warning signs that you have an injury. While some injuries are immediately evident, others can creep up slowly and progressively get worse. If you don't pay attention to both types of injuries, chronic problems can develop.

For detailed information on specific injuries, check out the injury by body part section.

Don't Ignore these Injury Warning Signs

Joint Pain

Joint pain, particularly in the knee, ankle, elbow, and wrist joints, should never be ignored. Because these joints are not covered by muscle, pain here is rarely of muscular origin. Joint pain that lasts more than 48 hours requires a professional diagnosis.


If you can elicit pain at a specific point in a bone, muscle, or joint, you may have a significant injury by pressing your finger into it. If the same spot on the other side of the body does not produce the same pain, you should probably see your health professional.  


Nearly all sports or musculoskeletal injuries cause swelling. Swelling is usually quite obvious and can be seen, but occasionally you may feel as though something is swollen or "full" even though it looks normal. Swelling usually goes along with pain, redness and heat.

Reduced Range of Motion

If the swelling isn't obvious, you can usually find it by checking for a reduced range of motion in a joint. If there is significant swelling within a joint, you will lose range of motion. Compare one side of the body with the other to identify major differences. If there are any, you probably have an injury that needs attention.


Compare sides for weakness by performing the same task. One way to tell is to lift the same weight with the right and left sides and look at the result. Or try to place body weight on one leg and then the other. A difference in your ability to support your weight is another suggestion of an injury that requires attention.

Immediate Injury Treatment: Step-by-Step Guidelines

  • Stop the activity immediately.
  • Wrap the injured part in a compression bandage.
  • Apply ice to the injured part (use a bag of crushed ice or a bag of frozen vegetables).
  • Elevate the injured part to reduce swelling.
  • Consult your health practitioner for a proper diagnosis of any serious injury.
  • Rehabilitate your injury under professional guidance.
  • Seek a second opinion if you are not improving.