What is medial collateral ligament (mcl) injury?

Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Injury

Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury: Overview

The medial collateral ligament is a band of tissue on the inside of the knee. It connects the thighbone to the bone of the lower leg. It keeps the knee from bending inward. You can sprain or tear the ligament during activity that involves bending, twisting, or a quick change of direction. The ligament is often injured in football or soccer when the outside of the knee is hit.

You can treat minor injuries with home care. Your doctor may suggest you wear a brace that helps support your knee. A severe tear may need surgery.

What are the symptoms of a medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury?

You may have swelling, pain, and tenderness along the inside of your knee. Several hours after you've injured your knee, your pain may increase, and it might become harder to move your knee. You may notice some bruising.

How is a medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury treated?

Your treatment will depend on how severe your injury is.

  • Mild or grade 1 injuries usually get better in 1 to 3 weeks. You may only need home treatment along with using crutches for a short time.
  • Moderate or grade 2 injuries usually get better in about a month. You may need to wear a hinged knee brace and limit how much weight you put on your leg.
  • Severe or grade 3 injuries may require wearing a hinged brace for a few months, and limiting weight on the leg for 4 to 6 weeks.

    A severe tear may need surgery. But this usually isn't done unless you also injure other parts of your knee, such as the ACL or meniscus.

Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to increase range of motion and strengthen your quadriceps muscles and hamstrings.

How is a medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury diagnosed?

The doctor will examine you and ask questions about your past health. You'll be asked how you injured your knee and about your symptoms at the time of injury. Your doctor will check your range of movement, swelling, and tenderness. You may have some tests, including an X-ray and an MRI.

How can you care for yourself when you have a medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury?

Home care can help you heal and return to your normal activity. Propping up your leg and using a cold pack on your knee will help reduce swelling. Ask your doctor about taking over-the-counter medicines for pain, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Follow your doctor's instructions for wearing a brace or using crutches.

What is a medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury?

A medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury is a sprain or tear to the medial collateral ligament. The MCL is a band of tissue on the inside of your knee. It connects your thighbone to the bone of your lower leg. The MCL keeps the knee from bending inward.

You can hurt your MCL during activities that involve bending, twisting, or a quick change of direction. For example, the MCL can be injured in football or soccer when the outside of the knee is hit. This type of injury can also occur during skiing and in other sports with lots of stop-and-go movements, jumping, or weaving.

Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of a blood clot, such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have increasing knee pain.
  • Your foot is cold, numb, or does not move normally.
  • Your knee still swells after home treatment.
  • Your knee feels like it will give out.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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