MEDIAL COLLATERAL LIGAMENT (MCL) INJURY
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is one of four major ligaments in the knee. The MCL is on the inside of the knee and runs from end of the femur (thigh bone) to the top of the tibia (shin bone). The primary role of the MCL is knee stability in the frontal plane. The MCL is particularly important in providing stability to the knee when stress is placed on the outside of the knee, which places the MCL under tension. Too much stress can lead to an MCL sprain (tear). MCL injuries, like ACL injuries are graded I-III (III most severe).
- Pain and swelling on the inside of the knee
- Tenderness on the inside of the knee
- A sense of instability in the knee with “buckling” episodes
Diagnosis And Treatment
Dr. Welch considers each patient’s symptoms, as well as a detailed physical examination, x-rays, and usually and MRI of the knee to make the diagnosis. In patients who sustain a low grade MCL injury (Grade I or II) in which the MCL is still functional, patients can be treated with a course of ice and rest, as well as a specific physical therapy program. Dr. Welch also treats patients with a hinged knee brace to help limit stress on the ligament during its healing phase.
Most patients with Grade III MCL strains (complete tear) are also treated non-operatively with a brace and physical therapy. Unlike the ACL, a completely torn MCL can heal on its own with appropriate tension. However, in some cases, the MCL does not heal and surgery may be required. Surgery generally involves repairing the MCL and/or including a graft to reconstruct the ligament.
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