The lateral collateral ligament, or LCL, runs along the outer side of the knee, connecting the femur to the fibula. It is one of the four major ligaments that stabilizes the knee and links the two major leg bones. Spraining an LCL is one of the least common knee injuries, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Sports Medicine, an accredited treatment and research center. According to the certified experts at the center, it is most likely to be damaged in a collision sport when force is applied to the inside of the knee. Depending on the level of sprain, exercise may provide the best treatment.
Grades of LCL Sprain and Treatment
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, there are three types of LCL sprains. A grade one sprain is the least severe; the tissue has been slightly stretched but is still capable of keeping the muscle stable. A grade two sprain is called a partial tear. This is a more serious stretch, where the ligament causes the knee to become less stable. The most severe sprain is the grade three sprain, or a complete rupture or tear of the ligament. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center suggests non-invasive treatment for grades one and two sprains: rest, ice, compression, elevation, over-the-counter pain relievers and a knee brace. A grade three LCL sprain will often include surgery and subsequent physical therapy.
Bruce Stewart, a Michigan-based orthopedic surgeon, writes that the exercise goal during the first weeks of an LCL sprain is maintaining strength in the surrounding musculature without damaging the ligament further. His program includes at least 100 quadriceps sets per day. A quad set starts with your legs extended in front of you. Contract the muscles in the front of your thighs and hold for 10 seconds, then release.
The muscles connecting your hip to your thigh and knee are also essential to maintain strength and stability in your knee. Hip flexion and multiple hip stretches will keep this muscle group strong. The hip flexion starts with you lying on your back with your healthy knee bent and the injured leg extended forward. Lift your leg, holding its form, so that your foot is approximately 5 inches off the floor. Hold the position for five to 10 seconds, then release. Hip extensions are the opposite of flexion. Lying on your stomach, lift your injured leg as high as you can and hold it for five to 10 seconds before releasing. Complete each exercise in three 10-repetition sets.
Hip Abduction and Adduction
An additional set of exercises work the muscles that pull and push the leg laterally. The hip abduction starts with you lying on your side of the healthy leg, with the injured leg on top. Lift the leg from the hip in the air as high as you can and hold for five to 10 seconds, then release. Hip adduction involves lying on the side of your injured leg with your healthy leg bent at the knee. Lift your injured leg from the hip toward the healthy leg; hold for five to 10 seconds, then release. Complete three sets of 10 exercises.