CNY Orthopedic Sports Medicine, PC: Injury: Medial Collateral Ligament Injury

Injuries and Conditions: Knee: Medial Collateral Ligament Injury

An MCL injury occurs when the medial collateral ligament becomes damaged through a pull, twist, tear or other disruption of the knee. An injured MCL reduces the stability of the knee and decreases the medial support of the knee during athletic activity.
  • Injuries can vary in severity, ranging from a minor sprain to a complete tear of the ligament.
  • Injuries usually occur during an activity involving a direct blow to the knee or lower leg, especially when the knee is bent and the lower leg is forced inward.
  • An MCL injury is one of the most common ligamentous injuries occurring around the knee.
  • Less serious injuries are treatable with physical therapy alone, although a completely torn ligament may require surgery. MCL surgery reconstructs the ligament by repairing a partial tear or through the re-attachment of a complete tear to the bone, depending upon the site of injury.

  • Signs and Symptoms
  • Considerable pain on the inside of the knee that does not go away within the first few hours after the injury.
  • A feeling of looseness when the knee is bent inward.
  • Immediate (usually within 24 hours) swelling and/or bruising on the inner (medial) aspect of the knee.
  • Difficulty or the inability to bear weight on the injured leg.
  • An audible "pop" or the perception of something snapping or breaking on the inside of the knee at the moment of injury.

  • Contact the Doctor if ...
  • If the patient shows any of the listed symptoms that do not resolve or improve within 24-48 hours.
  • If after treatment, the patient continues to have pain and/or instability of the knee.
  • If the patient experiences unexplained symptoms, other types of pain, or unexpected side effects of medication.

  • Common Causes of Injury
  • MCL injuries usually occur during athletic activities and are common in running, jumping or during sudden twisting, turning or stopping movements.
  • The injury is typically associated with sports like skiing, football, basketball, and soccer.
  • The injury is commonly the result of a blow to the outside of the knee when the foot is planted.

  • Expectations of Recovery
  • With proper care, most patients can expect a full recovery from an injured MCL.
  • Most patients will recover without surgery, using physical therapy and bracing to regain a standard range of motion and allow the injured ligament to heal.
  • Patients with more severe injuries, that require surgery, are also likely to return to previous levels of athletic ability, although rehabilitation is usually more demanding and recovery time longer.


  • Anatomy
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