Search Encyclopedia:    
List of Topics Print This Page
 

Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury of the knee


Definition:

Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury is an injury to the ligament on the inner part of the knee. This ligament keeps your shin bone (tibia) in place.

It can be a stretch, partial tear, or complete tear of the ligament.

Alternative Names:

Knee injury - medial collateral ligament (MCL); MCL injury

Considerations:

The medial collateral ligament (MCL) goes from the inside surface of the upper shin bone to the inner surface of the bottom thigh bone.

The ligament helps keep the inside portion of the knee joint stable.

Causes:

The MCL is usually injured by pressure or stress on the outside part of the knee. A block to the outside part of the knee during football is a common way for this ligament to be injured.

It is often injured at the same time as an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury occurs.

Symptoms:

Symptoms of a tear in the medial collateral ligament are:

  • Knee swelling
  • Locking or catching of the knee with movement
  • Pain and tenderness along the inside of the joint
  • The knee gives way or feels like it is going to give way when it is active or stressed in a certain way
First Aid:

The health care provider will examine your knee. An MCL test will be done to detect looseness of the ligament. This test involves bending the knee to 25 degrees and putting pressure on the outside surface of the knee.

Other tests may include:

Treatment includes:

  • Applying ice to the area
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
  • Raising the knee above heart level

You should limit physical activity until the pain and swelling go away.

The health care provider may put you on crutches and in a brace to protect the ligament. You may also be told not to put any weight on your knee when you walk.

After a period of keeping the knee still, you will be taught exercises to strengthen and stretch the knee. Physical therapy may help you regain knee and leg strength.

Surgery is often not needed when only the MCL has been torn. Most MCL injuries can heal with immobilization.

If you need surgery, it will require an open incision where the ligament is repaired back to the bone.

When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have symptoms of MCL injury
  • You are being treated for MCL injury and you notice increased instability in your knee, pain or swelling after they initially faded, or your injury does not get better with time
  • You re-injure your knee
Prevention:

Use proper techniques when playing sports or exercising. Many cases are not preventable.

References:

De Carlo M, Armstrong B. Rehabilitation of the knee following sports injury. Clin Sports Med. 2010; 29:81-106.

Singhal M, Patel J, Johnson D. Medical ligament injuries: 1. Medical collateral ligament injuries in adults. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr., Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Dree's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2009:chap 23;sect C.

Silverstein JA, Moeller JL, Hutchinson MR. Common issues in orthopedics. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2011:chap 30.


Review Date: 6/29/2012
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

   View History
  Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury of the knee

Related Links
Request an Appointment Online or call
1-800-789-PENN (7366)
Joint x-ray
Knee arthroscopy
Medial
MRI
   
   

 

About UPHS   Contact Us   Site Map   Privacy Statement   Legal Disclaimer   Terms of Use

The University of Pennsylvania Health System, Philadelphia, PA 1-800-789-PENN © 2014, The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania