While injuries can be devastating, there is something gratifying about getting injured while making a game saving play for your team. Unfortunately, for Toronto Blue Jay second baseman Macier Izturis there is no such saving grace. Isturiz was getting set to bat next when he tripped climbing up the dugout steps. He claimed that he felt two pops in his knee as he tripped. He was later diagnosed with a complete lateral collateral ligament (LCL) tear and has been placed on the long-term disabled list, likely unable to return this season.
The LCL is one of four major ligaments that help to align and stabilize the knee joint. The knee joint is the point at which thighbone (femur), shinbone (tibia), and kneecap (patella) meet. The LCL connects the thighbone and shinbone along the outer side of the knee. The function of the LCL is to provide to stability to the outer portion of the knee joint. The symptoms of an LCL tear include knee joint instability, pain or soreness on outside of knee, stiffness, and swelling. The intensity of these symptoms is dependent on the severity of the injury. Likewise, LCL injuries are diagnosed based off of severity. A grade 1 LCL sprain classification is used when only a few ligament fibers are damaged. A grade 2 LCL sprain is used when more ligament fibers are damaged but the ligament itself still remains intact. A grade 3 LCL sprain is used when the LCL is completely torn into two separate pieces making the outside of the knee joint very unstable.
Treatment options for an LCL injury can range from rest and physical therapy all the way to surgical reconstruction. For grade 1 LCL sprains the recovery period ranges three to six weeks and requires rest and progressive light strength and balance exercises. For grade 2 LCL sprains the recovery period ranges from six to eight weeks and requires more intense physical therapy than that of a grade 1 sprain. For grade 3 sprains, the optimal solution is surgery. The surgery for grade 3 sprains can include suturing or stitching the torn ends, or complete LCL reconstruction via a tendon graft such as the hamstring or quadriceps tendon. The post-surgery recovery time for grade 3 sprains is three to six months.
The LCL will generally return to close to its pre-injury form assuming that rehabilitation and/or surgical reconstruction. However, it is important to note than injuries involving the LCL tear often involve another one of the major ligaments in the knee joint. One such injury that comes to mind is current NFL running back Marcus Lattimore; who two years ago had a gruesome knee injury that ended with a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), torn PCL (posterior cruciate ligament), and a torn LCL. Injuries that cause damage to multiple ligaments can be very damaging and make a return-to-form unlikely. Luckily for Macier Izturis he came away with damage to just his LCL He is expected to miss the rest of this season but he should be able to come back and continue his career in 2015.