The Best Braces for LCL Sprains and Injuries
Knees. Like the other important joints in our bodies, we take them for granted until they give us pain or give out on us. Because knees are so complex, there’s a lot that can go wrong and many different components that we can injure. Millions of people–athletes and non-athletes alike–deal every day with knee pain and knee injuries. And because knees are so central to our mobility, an injury can really put a crimp in our style. One of the most common injuries sustained in the knee is an LCL Sprain.
What is the Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL)?
An important component of the knee that is subject to injury is the Lateral Collateral Ligament, the LCL. It is one of four critical ligaments involved in stabilizing the knee joint. Because it’s a ligament, it connects bone to bone–in this case, the thigh bone to the lower leg bone. It’s located on the outside of the knee and stabilizes from the side. LCL injuries happen when there’s a blow to the inside of the knee causing a stretch on the outside of the knee. The good news is that sprains of the LCL are not as common as other ligamentous knee injuries.
How to Test if the LCL is Torn
There is a simple and effective way to test if the LCL is torn. Have a medical professional, friend, or family member hold your leg and provide a force from the inside of the knee towards the outside of the knee, or going from medial to lateral. If there is laxity and pain there is likely some degree of an LCL injury. Be sure to test both legs to compare what’s normal.
Grades of LCL Sprains
A sprain results from a tear of the tissue, and obviously we can tear more or less of the tissue in any given injury. LCL sprains are assigned grades depending on their severity.
Grade 1 LCL Sprain
The ligament is taxed, but doesn’t tear. If there are tears they are small and don’t cause the knee to be unstable
Grade 2 LCL Sprain
The ligament has experienced larger tears. The sprain causes looseness in the knee, pain, and swelling. It’s also possible that you’ll see bruising. In a Grade 2 sprain, the ligament is not completely torn.
Grade 3 LCL Sprain
The ligament is completely torn. A Grade 3 sprain causes a lot of pain, swelling, and bruising on the inside of the knee. Because of the severity of the sprain, the knee will be unstable and if you’re not careful, the instability could cause further damage to other parts of the knee or leg.
Symptoms of an LCL Sprain
Because the LCL stabilizes the knee on the outside, you injure it when you take a hit or a blow to the inside of your knee. Depending on how badly you have injured the ligament, you may feel just pain or stiffness, or you may experience looseness of the knee as well as bruising and swelling. You might also have trouble walking.
- Difficulty walking, going down stairs, or standing on one leg
- Tenderness to touch on the outside of the knee
- Feeling of the knee giving out on uneven ground
- Swelling on the outside of the knee
- Pain with squatting or bending down
Do I Need Surgery with an LCL Tear?
Most likely, unless it’s a really bad tear, you won’t need surgery. You might need to rest the knee and baby it a little if it’s just stretched. If it’s somewhat worse, and it continues to give you problems, you might need to seek the care of a physician or a physical therapist. Grade 3 tears are the ones that may require surgery, though wearing a brace to add stability might be enough. Isolated LCL tears rarely require surgery, but may be repaired if other ligament damage was also sustained.
What to Look for in an LCL Brace
If your health care professional recommends a brace for stability while your knee heals, you’ll want to get one that has features that make it work well for you and your knee.
- Hinges–these help with stability and keep your knee from moving out of alignment. There are rigid and soft hinges.
- Breathability–this makes sure the brace is comfortable to wear all day.
- Stability–this feature is key to insuring healing of the knee.
- Easy on/off–this feature will help you by making sure the brace is convenient and easy to live with
The Best Brace for an LCL Sprain
DonJoy Performance Bionic Knee Brace
The DonJoy Bionic Knee Brace can be used to support the knee for ACL, MCL, and LCL injuries and can be used for sports. It’s lightweight with a premium neoprene material. It is one of the highest rated braces on the market and one of the easiest to take on and off. Despite the ease it taking off we are really impressed with how tight and supportive the braces feels.
Pros: hex-shaped opening for the knee allows for free movement, quick and easy on/off, closures allow for precision fit
Cons: more expensive than other similar models, doesn’t fit well over a long period of time
Zamst ZK-7 LCL Knee Brace
The Zamst Zk- 7 Brace has resin stays to provide support as well as their x-strap and parallel straps for front to back stability. Great for any ligament injury but is great for a LCL sprain. The flyweight lightweight material is designed with V-Tech flow which allows for greater airflow while wear. This brace was recentl worn during rehab by Von Miller of the nfl.
Pros: It’s made of lightweight material but doesn’t shift around, “fits so well that I forget it’s on”
Cons: may run small; go up a size if in doubt, does not have metal structural support
Bracoo LCL Knee Brace
The Bracoo Knee Brace is a knee “support” more than a brace. It offers comfortable support for those grade 1 and grade 2 sprains. It comes with an open patella design for breathability. The velcro straps allow for customizable fit for all different sizes of legs and is one of the easiest braces to take on and off.
Pros: fully customizable so it fits well, inexpensive, neoprene encourages circulation, can be worn under clothing
Cons: some users found it didn’t stay in place
EzyFit LCL Brace
The EzyFit Knee Brace offers “substantial” support; it has two stabilizers, but it’s flexible and breathable. It comes with a non-slip design and the open patella allows for more airflow and more breathable.
Pros: velcro can be placed anywhere on the brace, good for all sizes–especially for plus sizes, easy on and off, and light weight
Cons: velcro may not last over the long haul
Mcdavid 429X LCL Knee Brace
The McDavid 429x knee brace offers “maximum” support and compression for “moderate to major instabilities.” It has one hinge on each side of the knee. This is a great brace for the moderate and severe LCL sprains, or if anyone has underlying knee athritis. It is going to provide the most support of any brace on this list.
Pros: heavy duty, solid brace, comfortable, holds knee in place well
Cons: be careful with sizing
If a brace or a support is what helps you get back in the game, these products offer the help you need. They will keep that knee in place so it can get back to serving you. These knee braces can help you get back to normal work and play while your LCL heals.
Other Great Related Rehab Articles
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only. This is not a substitute for a medical appointment. Please refer to your physician before starting any exercise program.