Knee ligaments are essential to human anatomy, primarily for stability and flexibility and for helping us to walk upright without support.

But the bigger question is: what exactly are these ligaments? Also, what ligaments are in the knee?

In this post, we’ll explore the knee ligament anatomy in detail.

I’ll share what I know regarding knee ligaments, their role, how to prevent injury to the ligaments, and what to do if you are experiencing knee injuries or ligament damage.

Read on to learn more about knee health and how to keep your knees strong and healthy!

What ligaments are in the knee

The knee joint is one of the most complex and vital joints in the human body (and the largest joint, too.)

Being a hinge joint, it relies on four main ligaments to provide structure and stability and prevent extreme movements, most likely resulting in knee ligament damage.

The ligaments of the knee are:

  • The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
  • The Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL)
  • The Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL)
  • The Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL)

Middle of the knee

Let’s look into the ligaments of the knee in detail now.

1. The ACL runs from the back of the femur (thigh bone) to the front of the tibia (shin bone), while the PCL runs from the front of the femur to the back of the tibia.

Both these ligaments are found inside the joint capsule; the joint, as it’s commonly known, is the bit that connects the two bones of the leg, meaning the upper thigh (femur) and the lower shin (tibia)

2. The LCL and MCL are located on the sides of the knee joint—the medial and lateral aspects, respectively.

These four major knee ligaments are paramount in providing solidity for our knees during daily activities such as walking, running, jumping, climbing stairs, etc. Particularly during high-intensity exercises such as sprinting or contact sports.

They help to keep the knees stable and robust by preventing over-stretching injuries (up to a specific limit.)


Shock Absorbers

So too, the ligaments of the knee absorb shock when we jump violently, say off a wall or chair with straight legs (ouch).

In doing so, the ligaments help protect deeper structures within the knee joint, such as the articular cartilage or medial meniscus.

Injuries to any of the four major knee ligaments may occur due to direct blows to the knee joint, sudden twists or falls, or repetitive stress or pressure over time.

Common injury causes include impact sports, perhaps due to collisions with other players or falling awkwardly during a game.

A sudden twisting motion is notorious for knee ligament injuries and is especially common in footballers.

A car accident, too, can cause a complete tear of any of the ligaments.

And, sadly, daily activities can and do go wrong. Even the most mundane tasks can end up tearing knee ligaments, so we need to be ultra-careful.

It’s essential to understand how the knee works and what ligaments are where so you can take preventive measures against injury before it happens.

Awareness is critical here.

Symptoms of a Torn Ligament

Without being overly austere, the main symptom of a knee ligament injury is severe and sudden pain (it’s excruciating pain, really) I know from personal experience!)

Some people also experience a loud ‘snap’ sound when the ligament tears – this is more noticeable for complete tears.

A knee injury differs in every person, indeed.

The major ligaments of the knee can all experience either a partial tear or a full tear, depending on the severity of the injury.

Other symptoms of the main ligaments of the knee include:

  • Inability to bear much weight (or any weight) on the injured knee
  • Knee instability
  • Visible injury or wound to the knee joint
  • Loss of knee rotation and motion

Medical Attention

The ACL is understood to be one of the most commonly injured knee ligament(s) worldwide.

Athletes and sportspeople are at a far higher risk of ACL injuries simply due to the nature of the game.

These are active people who move and run and change direction quickly – all of which increase the risk of ACL injury.

But let’s not forget about PCL tears too. A PCL injury is more likely to happen due to blunt trauma. Say a sudden impact from a car accident or dashboard injury.

Also, falling forward and landing on the knee can cause a PCL injury.

In essence, all knee pain injuries need medical attention.

You’ll need to provide your healthcare team with a complete medical history, which will help with the diagnostic side of things.

A diagnostic test, such as an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging, should be requested to evaluate the knee’s bony or soft tissue structures and organize appropriate treatment and/or management.

Treatment of Knee Ligament Injuries

Treatments do vary widely.

If you’re dealing with a full ACL tear, you’ll likely need surgery to correct it.

Sometimes, partial tears can be treated conservatively, using a knee brace and a physical therapist’s support to get you back to normal activities as soon as possible.

In truth, the most challenging part of ligament tears or injuries is often the mental challenges faced – especially if you’re an athlete who’s so used to being up and about, busy and active.

If you’re suffering right now from a knee ligament injury, know you’re not alone.

I’ve been in the same position that you are right now, and come out the other side.

You can check out my bestselling book on Amazon: Torn: Overcoming the Psychological Challenges Post-ACL Injury.

It will provide comfort to you.

I hope you found this post valuable. Thanks for reading.

About the Author

Hi there! I’m Dr. Keagen Hadley, OTD, OTR/L. Straight out of the University of Mary, I’m all about blending my know-how in knee health, well-being, and medical technology. As a licensed occupational therapy doc, I’m here to translate complex concepts into clear, actionable insights – whether it’s knee care or groundbreaking healthcare tech.

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