The medial collateral ligament (MCL) connects the top of the shinbone (lower leg bone) to the bottom of the thighbone (upper leg bone). When you are standing up, the MCL is along the left side of your right knee and along the right side of your left knee.
Whereas the ACL and PCL (anterior cruciate ligament and posterior cruciate ligament) support the inside of the knee in an “X” shape, the MCL and the LCL (lateral collateral ligament) support the knee from along the inside and outside, respectively.
The most common type of MCL damage is an MCL sprain, which is usually a result of overstretching the ligament or tearing it, or a direct blow to the knee. Repeated stress on the ligament can also affect its elasticity.
Athletes are especially prone to damaging their MCL. When this injury happens, it is usually accompanied by a torn ACL in the same knee.
MCL Injury Grading
MCL injuries are graded from 1 to 3 according to severity:
This is the mildest form of MCL damage. The MCL ligament is only stretched, and there are no signs of tearing.
If the MCL injury is grade 2, the ligament is partially torn. This can affect your stability. You will find it difficult to walk, and you definitely cannot engage in sports.
The ligament is completely torn. Your stability is greatly affected, and you feel pain because this type of injury is severe.
Symptoms of MCL Injury
MCL injury symptoms are very similar to those caused by other types of knee injuries. This is why you should see an orthopedist for a proper diagnosis.
The most common symptoms of a damaged MCL include:
- Hearing a popping sound
- Locking in the knee joint
- Pain, swelling, and tenderness
- Instability, especially when putting weight on your knee
Diagnosing an MCL Injury
An orthopedist can diagnose an MCL injury after a careful examination of your knee. The exam involves bending your knee, stretching it, and putting pressure on it.
Usually, the orthopedist will also order imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis. An imaging test can rule out other types of knee injuries.
The most common imaging tests for a suspected MCL injury is an X-ray. If the X-ray images prove inconclusive, the doctor may also order an MRI scan for a more detailed look into your knee.
Treating MCL Injuries
How your damaged MCL is treated will depend on the severity of the injury. While most MCL injuries heal on their own, early treatment involves the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. In addition, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers if necessary.
You may need to use crutches to keep the weight off your injured knee. Moreover, physical therapy can help your knee recover faster and regain strength and mobility.
If all else fails, orthopedic surgery might be an option – especially if your ligament is torn beyond repairing itself or if you have other injuries in the knee. The latest surgical intervention is arthroscopic surgery, which is minimally invasive and has an excellent success rate.
Little Rock Knee Surgeon
If you are suffering from knee pain due to MCL damage or another type of injury, such as arthritis, Dr. William Hefley can help restore your mobility – so you can get back to living an active lifestyle.
Contact our caring team today at (800) 336-2412 or request an appointment online now. We look forward to seeing you.