Medial collateral ligament (MCL) is one of four major ligaments of the knee that connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone) and is present on the inside of the knee joint. This ligament helps stabilize the knee.
MCL Injury – Strains and Tears
An injury to the MCL may occur as a result of direct impact to the knee. An MCL injury can result in a minor stretch (sprain) or a partial or complete tear of the ligament.
Symptoms for MCL Injuries
The most common symptoms following an MCL injury include pain, swelling, and joint instability.
Diagnosis of MCL Injuries
An MCL injury can be diagnosed with a thorough physical examination of the knee and diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays, arthroscopy, and MRI scans. X-rays may help rule out any fractures. In addition, your doctor will perform a valgus stress test to check for stability of the MCL. In this test, the knee is bent approximately 30° and pressure is applied on the outside surface of the knee. Excessive pain or laxity is indicative of medial collateral ligament injury.
Management of MCL Injuries
If the overall stability of the knee is intact, your doctor will recommend non-surgical methods including ice, physical therapy, and bracing. Surgical reconstruction is rarely recommended for MCL tears, but may be necessary in patients whose injury fails to heal properly with residual knee instability. These cases are often associated with other ligament injuries. If surgery is required, a ligament repair may be performed, with or without reconstruction with a tendon graft; depending on the location and severity of the injury.