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MCL Sprains and Tears

UC San Diego Health offers expert diagnosis and care for MCL sprains and tears. 

Our sports medicine specialists can usually diagnosis an MCL sprain through a clinical evaluation and by discussing your symptoms and sports history. If multiple diagnoses are being considered or the knee injury is severe, an MRI or arthroscopy may be recommended.

Treating MCL Injuries

Treatment starts with rest, ice and elevation to ease pain and swelling. In the next stage, you start exercises (physical therapy) to improve your knee’s range of motion, strength and flexibility. You may need a brace for weeks after your injury. Using crutches or a brace rests your joint, helping it to heal. 

Though the vast majority of MCL injuries heal well without surgery, UC San Diego Health orthopedists offer MCL reconstruction surgeries for individuals with complete MCL tears.

What are MCL sprains and tears?

knee anatomy, knee ligaments

MCL sprains often cause pain on the inside of the knee. You may have also heard a popping sound when the injury occurred.

The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is the stabilizing ligament on the inside of the knee (the medial side). It can get injured when a side-bending force is applied to the knee, 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 are the symptoms of MCL sprains and tears?

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 an MCL tear is severe, the athlete can feel a sense of instability or opening on the inside of the knee.

Learn more about knee ligament injuries and knee pain:

Sports Medicine Appointments & Referrals


Sports Medicine Locations

UC San Diego Health offers expertise in sports medicine within family medicine, orthopedics, surgery and rehab. Not all services are available at all locations.

La Jolla



Scripps Ranch