The Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) is a band of tissue on the inside of the knee that connects your thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). It is one of the four vital ligaments that maintain stability of the knee joint. MCL sprains are one of the most common knee injuries, involving a stretch, partial tear or complete tear of the ligament.
MCL injuries often occur during activities where twisting or a quick change in direction happens. Also, an impact to the outside of the knee when the foot is in contact with the ground can also commonly injure the MCL.
Varying degrees of pain may be present, and the amount of pain often does not directly reflect the seriousness of the injury.
As with all ligament injuries MCL sprains are graded One, Two or Three.
Grade 1 injuries are classified as mild. The ligament is stretched but still intact. Swelling and pain is mild with no instability.
Grade 2 sprains are moderate with significant pain and tenderness on the inside of the knee with swelling. There is often a partial tear of the ligament with moderate swelling, more severe pain and welling and often inability to walk.
Grade 3 sprains are classified as severe often involving a complete tear of the ligament. There may be significant swelling of the knee and it may feel unstable. Often people have trouble bearing weight.
A Physiotherapist can diagnose this injury through a combination of obtaining a full history of your injury through a number of questions, and also examination of the knee. Range of motion, swelling, area of pain and physical tests will help assist with an accurate diagnosis. Sometimes X-ray and MRI are used, however diagnosis can often be made without these tests.
The majority of MCL injuries can be treated well by non-operative treatment, especially if it is an isolated MCL injury and not in combination with the ACL and/or meniscus.
As for many acute injuries the R.I.C.E principle can be used in the first 24-48 hours following an injury. This involves: rest, ice, compression and elevation.
Management may sometimes first involve short-term immobilisation using crutches or a brace if it is a high-grade injury. Rest is important initially to help allow time for the MCL to recover and repair. Followed by gradually increasing movement and load back into the knee.
Rehabilitation often involves focusing on reducing swelling, early range of motion, and progression towards strengthening exercises. Following this return to sports and back to the person's previous level of function can be introduced.
For more information, please call to book in for advice and management from your physiotherapist.
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