MCL Injury Symptoms

By Michelle Duclos Certified Athletic Trainer

MCL Injury

Image of the Knee Joint

MCL or Medial Collateral Ligament Injury Symptoms

The Medial Collateral Ligament, MCL, is a ligament located on the inside of the knee and is one of many ligaments that act to stabilize the knee. The ligament is often injured during direct contact, such as in sports, or when the knee undergoes a twisting motion. When the ligament is damaged it is often referred to as a sprain and classified based on the degree of damage. A grade I sprain occurs when only a few fibers of the ligament, <10%, are damaged. With this degree of a sprain, expect mild tenderness over the inside of the knee and usually no swelling present. Pain will often occur when an outward force, valgus, is placed through the knee. Often recovery time from this injury ranges from 1-2weeks.

A grade II sprain results when more of the ligament fibers are damaged but the ligament is still intact. With this type of MCL sprain there will be pain on the inside of the knee and swelling is usually present after the incident. Some patients may feel some instability with this injury. Treatment from a physical therapist for this injury may include ultrasound and cross friction massage along with strengthening. Recovery time from this injury can vary between 2-4 weeks.

A grade III sprain occurs when the MCL ligament ruptures or tears completely. With this injury the patient can expect significant swelling in the knee as well as a difficulty bending the knee. With this injury a feeling of instability in the knee is common. The use of a knee brace may help reduce the feeling on instability during ambulation. Treatment from a physical therapist involve modalities for pain management, range of motion, and strengthening exercises to prepare the patient for a return to activities.  Some grade III MCL sprains may need surgical intervention.


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