By Dr. Umesh Kulkarni, Orthopaedics
Ligaments are bands of muscle found in different parts of the body like the joints, shoulders and wrists. They encase a joint and connect two bones together. Ligaments provide strength to the joint and control its movement. A ligament injury can impede the range of movability of a joint (pivoting, twisting or turning).
What can cause a knee ligament injury?
• Athletes frequently injure their knees when they are engaged in rigorous sports like soccer, tennis, basketball. When the knee is sprained, the ligament is often affected.
• Age increases the risk of ligament injuries because of the wear and tear of ligaments and tendons
• Obesity also erodes ligaments, making them more vulnerable to injuries
Of the four types of ligaments, the one that is most prone to injury is the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (responsible for the rotation and forward/backward movement of the knee). ACL injury contributes to about 40% of all sports injuries. The three other ligaments that may get injured are-
• Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL)- operates the shin bone
• Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL)- protects the inner knee
• Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL)- protects the outer knee
What should you know about knee ligament surgery?
ACL and PCL surgeries can only be performed once the knee swelling subsides. This can be speeded up with physiotherapy. You might be recommended low-impact exercises like swimming or brisk walking. Torn ACL and PCL cannot be stitched back together. Usually, the torn bit of the ligament is snipped off and replaced with a tendon harvested from another part of the leg. This tissue can be extracted from the person undergoing the surgery or from a donor. Sometimes, doctors use a synthetic graft. This surgery is performed under general or spinal anaesthesia.
LCL and MCL surgeries are usually laparoscopic because the ligaments are located outside the knee. If the tear of the LCL or MCL happens on the thighbone or shinbone, it can be sewn back together with screws and staples.
Recovery after knee ligament surgery
• After ACL surgery, recovery takes around six months. However, stiffness and some residual pain may linger. Full functionality of the knee can be restored.
• For PCL and MCL surgeries, recovery can take nine to twelve months
A torn ligament is a fairly common injury. But it is easily fixable with a knee surgery.
The only way to ward off recurrent pain and swelling are exercising. For that, a person needs physiotherapy. The physiotherapist analyses the extent of the injury and the wound left by surgery. Based on the type of ligament surgery, the physiotherapist will recommend a course of exercise.