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I have good knees. Given that repeated impacts to the outer knee can lead to lateral collateral ligament injuries, what defensive strategies can a Karate or Muay-Thai fighter employ to protect this area from opponents’ strikes, and are there specific exercises recommended to fortify the knee against such blows?

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There are no exercises that will protect against this.

As you say this is a particularly weak joint. There isn't much you can do to improve it's durability. Train carefully and try not to get hit there.

However very few styles will practice actively striking towards the knee at speed. If you are regularly receiving strikes here you have to question the training system.

All I can suggest in terms of defensive strategy is that if the kick is coming towards the knee, then raise the knee and catch the kick on the shin. Obviously if your weight is on that leg you will struggle to do this though.

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  • Thank you. Does wearing knee pads aid in cushioning impacts?
    – CSinha
    Commented Apr 25 at 7:58
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    @CSinha Yes, they do, but the pad portion needs to face the direction of the attack, which is not always predictable. In boxing, we often wear padded headgear to reduce impacts to the head. It is easy to pad all the way around the head without reducing mobility. The knees are a different story, but you can still use pads to protect them to a certain degree. Just don't expect pads to make knees invincible, because they will still be vulnerable to injury. Commented May 6 at 9:34
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I think there are three important things to say about your question:

Impetus from the outside will damage the medial collateral ligament, if anything.

Think about it: it is not direct pressure that damages ligaments as a primary damage, it is rupture due to mechanical stretch beyond tensile strength. When you kick the outside of the knee, it is the inside that will open up, thus the stress is on the medial collateral ligament (and the lateral meniscus).

If your style includes leg kicks, you (should) learn how to check them before they are applied on you in any dangerous speed or force

If not, that's bad instruction. Checking leg kicks means that you take weight from the leg in question, often lifting and bending the knee so that you take the force with your shin (alternatively thigh), never the knee itself. This takes tension from the collelateral ligaments and allows for two things: 1) it makes it much less probable that the knee itself is injured by taking it our of harms way and not having two fix points (hip and ankle) with long leverage (upper and lower leg bones) anymore. 2) You can turn your thigh against the line of impact so that there is no lateral force but more frontal, which the patella sinew can manage as one of our thickest sinews/ligaments.

No exercise can enforce the sides of your knees (with caveat)

Generally, it is true that there is no exercise that can improve your knee's stability against lateral impact. That's not because there are no muscles (there are, in fact, three of them, inserting at the pes anserinus superficialis) but because these muscles are either not under tension (no weight on the leg, knee bent) or the risk for the knee is exorbitantly higher and cannot be compensated by any improvement of muscular stability (weight on the leg, leg (almost) straight). Same argument holds for progressive (below injury) stress on the ligaments, which can lead to them getting thicker as well.

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  • Thank You! If someone has suffered an injury to the outer knee from an impact, could you recommend some exercises that might help rehabilitate the affected area?
    – CSinha
    Commented Apr 30 at 14:47
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    @CSinha It depends. Do you have a MRT report or similar which specifies affected structures? A general approach would be a generic knee stability rehab like after cruciate ligament injury which goes from feedback exercises (Bulgarian Split Squads, back lunges) towards the much harder feed-forward ones (forward or side lunges etc) Commented Apr 30 at 16:19
  • I don't have an MRI, but the doctor prescribed medication and the pain is much better. However, after standing for long periods (over 30 minutes), I feel some weakness inside and outside my knee. I'm able to do light squat, lunges, hamstring curls without feeling any discomfort in that area.
    – CSinha
    Commented May 1 at 11:47

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