What Are MCL Injuries?
A band of tissue runs along the inner edge of the knee known as the medial collateral ligament, or MCL. It assists in connecting the thigh and shin bones together, keeping the knee stable when moving. When the outer knee suffers a heavy impact, the MCL, which sits on the inner side of the knee, can overstretch or tear. Athletes participating in football, hockey, and other high-impact sports may commonly injure their MCL this way. Patients can also tear their MCL if an impact suddenly pushes the knees to the side, or if they twist or bend out too far.
Indications Of MCL Injuries
The symptoms of an MCL injury may include:
- Pain: Pain is typically felt along the inner side of the knee, especially when pressure is applied or during certain movements.
- Swelling: The knee may swell, and the swelling may be localized to the inner side of the knee.
- Tenderness: Tenderness and sensitivity may be present along the course of the MCL.
- Joint Instability: Depending on the severity of the injury, there may be a feeling of knee joint instability or a sense that the knee is giving way, particularly when attempting sideways movements.
- Limited Range of Motion: There may be difficulty fully bending or straightening the knee due to pain or mechanical blockage caused by the injury.
If you suspect an MCL injury, it is important to seek medical evaluation for an accurate diagnosis. A healthcare professional, typically an orthopedic specialist, will perform a physical examination of the knee, evaluate your symptoms, and may order imaging tests like an MRI to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of the injury.
Treatments For MCL Injuries
Treatment options for MCL injuries depend on several factors, including the severity of the injury, the individual’s activity level, and their overall health goals. Treatment may include:
- Non-Surgical Management: Most MCL injuries, particularly grade 1 and some grade 2 injuries, can be treated non-surgically. This typically involves a combination of rest, ice, compression, elevation (R.I.C.E. therapy), bracing, and physical therapy to promote healing, reduce pain and swelling, and restore knee stability and function.
- Surgical Reconstruction: Surgery is rarely required for isolated MCL injuries. However, in cases where there is a combined injury to other structures in the knee, such as the ACL, or if the MCL fails to heal with conservative treatment, surgical intervention may be necessary.
Rehabilitation and physical therapy play a crucial role in the recovery process for MCL injuries. The goal is to restore knee stability, improve range of motion, regain strength, and gradually return to normal activities. The specific rehabilitation program