Medial Collateral Ligament Sprain

The collateral ligaments are located on the sides of the knees. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is located in the knee, connecting the inner side of the thigh bone to the shin (tibia) bone. The MCL helps the knee to resist force and keeps it stable against unusual movement. The collateral ligaments also control the sideways motion of the knee. This ligament may become torn or damaged as a result of direct impact to the outside of the knee. An injury may cause the MCL to loosen, stretch and possibly tear, resulting in pain and inflammation.

Symptoms of an MCL Sprain

Patients with an MCL sprain may experience the following symptoms on the inside of the knee:

  • Pain with flexion and extension
  • Tenderness along the inner part of the knee
  • Swelling
  • Loss of motion of the knee

After an MCL sprain, individuals may also experience, instability, or the feeling that the knee is going to give way.

Types of MCL Sprains

An MCL sprain is diagnosed through a physical examination of the knee. Additional imaging tests may include an X-ray or MRI scan. The doctor determines the grade of the MCL sprain based on the extent of damage, which may range from a mild tear to a complete rupture. MCL sprains may be classified as:

  • Grade 1 sprains occur when the ligament is mildly damaged
  • Grade 2 sprains occur when the ligament has been stretched and loosened
  • Grade 3 sprains occur when the ligament is completely torn

Grade 2 sprains are commonly referred to as a partial tear of the ligament.

Treatment of an MCL Sprain

Treatment for an MCL sprain varies based on the severity of the injury, but it can normally be treated with conservative methods that include:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation
  • Knee brace

A physical therapy program may help to strengthen and restore function to the knee. In severe cases, when the ligament has torn completely and not healed properly, surgery may be necessary for repair.

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