Medial collateral ligament injury
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is a triangular shaped structure which runs from the inner surface of the thigh bone (femur) to the inner surface of the shin bone (tibia). It restrains the knee from opening up on the inner side. Injuries to the MCL are caused when the knee is forced into a knock-kneed position by a blow to the outer side of the knee. MCL injuries can range from simple sprains through to complete ruptures (grades 1 to 3). MCL injuries are often associated with meniscal cartilage injuries due to the fact that they are attached.
Treatment of MCL sprains is dependent upon the grade of the injury and bracing is often useful.
Grade 1: Simple sprain.
These are treated with rest, ice, anti-inflammatories and knee exercises supervised by a physiotherapist. Return to sport can be within 1-2 weeks.
Grade 2: Partial rupture
These are most commonly initially treated with a knee brace to prevent further injury whilst allowing movement combined with the treatment for Grade 1 injuries. Sport is recommenced when there is no tenderness over the MCL and there is no evidence of instability. Return to sport generally within a month.
Grade 3: Complete rupture
These commonly require a short period of immobilisation and non weight-bearing however, like all ligament injuries, early range of motion does aid the healing process. As soon as pain allows weightbearing and exercises should be commenced within the brace and progression monitored by the surgeon and physiotherapist. Return to sport is often around 3 months.