The first step is a physical exam. Your doctor will check the outside of the knee for pain or tenderness, then apply pressure to the area while your leg is both bent and straight, which can indicate the severity of your injury.
Sometimes the immediate pain and swelling make it difficult to gauge severity. In this case, you may be asked to wear a light brace and to ice and elevate your knee until the swelling goes down.
Your doctor may also order the following tests:
- X-rays: These can reveal a fracture of the fibula or other bones, such as the femur and tibia (larger long bone of the calf).
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This test assesses the severity of LCL injuries with more than 90 percent accuracy. It's often used to confirm the ligament injury diagnosis and to check for injuries to cartilage or other knee ligaments.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.