Understanding Medial Collateral Ligament Sprain
The knee is a complex joint where the thighbone (femur) meets the shinbone (tibia). Strong tissues called ligaments connect these bones together. Ligaments also keep the bones aligned, so the knee only bends how it is supposed to. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) runs across the knee joint on the medial side of the leg. Injury to this ligament may be very painful. The knee may also not work the way it should.
Causes of an MCL sprain
An MCL sprain often happens when the knee joint is pushed beyond its normal range of motion. It is most common during a blow to the knee from the outside, pushing the knee inward. It may also happen if the knee is forced into a twist. These movements stretch and tear the MCL. Other parts of the knee may be damaged along with the MCL.
Symptoms of an MCL sprain
Locking of the joint
Wobbly or unstable feeling in the joint
Treatment for an MCL sprain
Treatment will depend on the severity of the sprain and whether there is damage to other parts of the knee. Options often include:
Rest. This allows the knee to heal. Activities that stress the knee should be avoided. Crutches, a knee brace, or both may also be recommended for a short time.
Cold packs and elevation of the knee. These help reduce swelling and relieve pain.
Compression. The knee may be wrapped with a bandage to help reduce swelling.
Medicines. These help relieve pain and swelling.
Exercises. These help improve the knee’s stability, strength, and range of motion.
If the injury is severe or several parts of the joint are involved, surgery may be an option. Surgery repairs the MCL and any other damaged structures.
When to call your healthcare provider
Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:
Pain, swelling, or instability that doesn’t get better with treatment or gets worse
June 19, 2017
Dexter WW. Medial collateral ligament injury of the knee. UpToDate. July 1 ed: UpToDate; 2014. p. 21., Lento P, et al. Collateral Ligament Sprain. In: Frontera WR, et al, editors. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. Philadelphia: Saunders; 2015. p. 339-43., Long JL, et al. Medial Collateral Ligament Injury. In: Miller MD, et al, editors. Essential Orthopaedics. Philadelphia: Saunders; 2010. p. 620-3., Prior RM. Knee Pain. In: Bittaro TM, et al, editors. Primary Care. 4 ed. Philadelphia: Mosby; 2013. p. 935-40.
Bellendir, Trina, MSPT, CLT,Image reviewed by StayWell medical illustration team.,Joseph, Thomas N, MD