Knee Ligament Tear

The knee is the largest joint in your body. A knee ligament tear – such as an ACL, PCL, MCL, or LCL – can leave you sidelined from many activities. Prompt care and physical therapy can alleviate pain and restore movement.

Ligaments are strong non-elastic fibers that connect our bones together. There are four ligaments inside the knee holding the knee bones together and providing stability. These ligaments can tear when you suddenly slow down from running, land from a jump, or change directions rapidly. These types of actions are common during sports, such as football, basketball, skiing, and soccer. Athletes are especially at risk for knee ligament tears, but the condition is not exclusive to sports injuries.

Knee ligaments can tear completely or partially. It is common to see other surrounding knee structures damaged during injury as well. Treatment and need for surgical repair are dependent on the severity and location of the tear.

Our on-site care at Orthopedic Associates of Lancaster includes a personalized approach to surgical repair and post-surgical physical therapy. Read more about potential treatments below and get to know our knee surgeons.


  • Sudden, deep pain in the knee or outside of the knee
  • A pop in the knee may be felt after a twisting or pivoting injury
  • Swelling and weakness in the knee
  • Feeling as though your knee may buckle or give out when attempting to bear weight


  • Twisting or pivoting motion of the knee, usually not related to a hit or contact, typically affecting the ACL
  • A direct hit to the lower leg bone while the knee is bent or hyperextended, typically affecting the PCL
  • A direct hit to the outside of the knee, typically affecting the MCL
  • A direct hit to the inside of the knee, typically affecting the LCL

Risk Factors

  • Participating in sports that require pivoting, twisting or intense contact such as soccer, football, basketball, or skiing
  • Muscle weakness or imbalance between the quads and hamstrings


  • Immediate referral to an orthopedic surgeon
  • Physical examination of the affected area
  • X-ray to show bone health
  • MRI to show soft tissue health and evaluate tears in the ligament
  • CT scan using dye to show the joint may be an option if an MRI cannot be used

Treatment Options

Depending on the ligament injured and the severity of the injury, treatment may include:

  • RICE therapy: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
  • Nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medications for pain relief
  • Physical therapy
  • Bracing the affected area
  • Surgical repair or reconstruction of the torn ligaments may be recommended depending on severity of the injury