LCL Tear

If the torn ligament does not heal sufficiently, you may experience instability in the joint, making it more susceptible to re-injury. Although more-severe injuries often require surgery, lesser damage to the LCL usually responds very well to non-surgical treatment. Recovery time depends on the severity of the injury.

Rehabilitation for an LCL tear consists of:

  • A period of rest
  • Bracing
  • Physical therapy

Once pain and swelling have subsided, you should be able to begin exercises to restore strength and normal range of motion to your knee.

Surgical repair of a torn LCL usually takes about one to two hours but can be longer if there are other injuries to the knee that also require treatment, such as an ACL tear. General anesthesia or a spinal or epidural anesthetic is used. An incision is made on the outside of your knee to gain access the torn ligament. The ligament is re-attached to the bone using screws, sutures or both. The skin is sewn back together using sutures or staples.

It is important to note that an LCL tear rarely occurs in isolation — it usually is in conjunction with other major knee injuries — and therefore rehabilitation depends on the extent of the other damage.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers


Sports Medicine Center
1500 Owens St.
San Francisco, CA 94158
Appointments: (415) 353–2808
Main: (415) 353–9400
Fax: (415) 885–3862
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