The Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) is one of the four major ligaments in the knee. It provides stability to the inner aspect of the knee. It connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (lower leg bone). MCL sprains often occur when an athlete is hit from the outside of their knee, bending the knee inwards. A “pop” may be heard with higher graded sprains. Pain over the inner aspect and swelling often occurs at the time of injury. In high grade sprains, the patient may experience instability. Pain can be induced with side to side motion
Diagnosis is based on a combination of history, physical examination, and radiographs. Plain x-rays will not show a torn MCL, but will aid in the diagnosis of other injuries/ conditions that may affect treatment, such as a fracture at the attachment site of the MCL. An MRI of the knee will aid in determining the degree of the sprain, and any other injuries that may have occurred.
Treatment will depend on the degree of the sprain, and any other injuries that may have occurred. Most MCL sprains can be treated without surgery. High grade sprains may be treated with a period of cast immobilization. Bracing, activity restrictions, ice, and physical therapy will help in recovery.
Most athletes can expect a full recovery after a period of treatment ranging from a few weeks to a few months.