MCL Sprains and Tears

What are MCL sprains and tears?

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The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is the stabilizing ligament of the inner aspect of the knee (the medial side). It can get injured when a side bending force is applied to the knee (valgus), causing the knee to collapse inward. One common way to injure the MCL is to get hit from the side, for example when a player is hit or taken out in a football or soccer game. In an MCL injury, the ligament fibers can be strained, partially torn, or completely torn.

What symptoms do MCL sprains and tears cause?

An injury to the MCL leads to swelling and pain in the medial, or inner, aspect of the knee. Patients will often feel pain with knee bending or twisting maneuvers. When the MCL tear is severe, the athlete can feel a sense of instability or opening on the inner aspect of the knee.

How are MCL sprains and tears diagnosed?

Diagnosis is generally made through a discussion with your doctor and a thorough examination. In most cases, an MRI is not needed to make the diagnosis of MCL tear or strain. However, if multiple diagnoses are being considered or the knee injury is severe, an MRI may sometimes be helpful.

How are MCL sprains and tears treated?

The good news is that the vast majority of MCL injuries heal well and do not need surgery. A knee brace can be worn for several weeks to prevent side bending or twisting and many patients will benefit from physical therapy as well. See your sports medicine specialist to determine a specific treatment plan.