Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL): Definition and What it is

Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT

Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Definition and Meaning

The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is a fibrous band of tissue in the outer side of the knee joint that connects the femur (thigh bone) to the fibula (calf bone). This ligament plays a pivotal role in maintaining the lateral (side) stability of the knee by helping to prevent excessive lateral movement and stabilize the joint against forces that push the knee outward. The LCL is one of four main ligaments in the knee (the ACL is another). 

Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Injuries

LCL injuries are commonly associated with sports and activities that involve sudden stops or high-impact collisions, like soccer, football, basketball, skiing, and gymnastics. When there is a sudden twisting motion of the knee, there’s the potential to irritate or sprain the LCL (in which the ligament is stretched or torn). LCL injuries can occur outside of sports, like during a car accident or simply pivoting abruptly when walking.

No matter what triggered the injury to the lateral cruciate ligament, the symptoms are generally the same, including knee pain, swelling (due to fluid buildup in the joint), reduced range of motion, and potentially difficulty walking if bearing weight on the knee is too painful or feels unstable. Some people may even experience a popping sound when the injury occurs, followed by immediate pain and swelling.

LCL Injuries: A Hinge Health Perspective

While any sort of knee ligament injury can be upsetting, know this: Ligaments, including the lateral collateral ligament, are resilient bands of connective tissue. They’re designed to recover and heal. While many people are afraid to move after an LCL injury, maintaining range of motion through gentle exercise and movement is key. Engaging in exercises that support your healing and strengthen the affected area (plus surrounding muscles) can help prevent future injury.

Lateral Cruciate Ligament (LCL) Injury Treatment

The treatment of LCL injuries typically involves two options: non-surgical and surgical approaches. Treatment depends on the severity of the injury, as well as other factors such as your activity level and overall health. Non-surgical approaches may be recommended for mild or moderate LCL injuries or for those who are good candidates based on lifestyle, age, and other factors. 

You may be familiar with the R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) approach to healing. While there are certain elements of R.I.C.E. that are still recommended, this is actually an outdated model and experts now recommend a more updated treatment approach: P.E.A.C.E. and L.O.V.E. This framework prioritizes movement and exercise as integral to recovery in order to strengthen the surrounding muscles and provide stability to the knee. 

More serious LCL injuries may require surgery to repair the affected ligament. 

How Physical Therapy Can Help With Lateral Cruciate Ligament (LCL) Injury

Physical therapy plays a key role in the recovery of an LCL injury. Initially, a physical therapist (PT) may focus on reducing pain and swelling. As healing progresses, a PT can recommend strengthening and stretching exercises aimed at restoring knee strength, flexibility, and stability. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.


  1. Scheirs, D., & De Pot, J. (2012). Lateral Collateral Ligament of the Knee. Physiopedia. 

  2. Yaras, R. J., O’Neill, N., & Yaish, A. M. (2020). Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Knee Injuries. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing.

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