Medial collateral (MCL) injuries

A medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury is when the ligament on the inside of the knee is stretched or torn, either partially or completely.

About medial collateral ligament (MCL) injuries

The bones of your knee joint are connected by four tough bands called ligaments, which give your knee stability.

Your medial collateral ligament (MCL) lies on the inner side of your knee joint, connecting your thigh bone to your shin bone.

Along with the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), your MCL controls the sideways movement of your knee.

Symptoms of MCL injury

The symptoms of an MCL injury can be felt on the inside of your knee and can vary, depending on the severity of the damage.

They may include:

  • pain and stiffness on the inside of your knee
  • tenderness
  • you may have some swelling
  • a feeling of instability (if there's a major tear)
  • some bruising in the first few days after your injury

Causes of medial collateral injuries

Your medial collateral ligament (MCL) is usually injured by your knee being pushed inwards (towards your other knee). This can happen as a result of:

  • a direct blow to the outside of your leg – often in contact sports like rugby
  • twisting your knee – a common skiing injury
  • repeated stress on your knee – during breast stroke
  • a fall – usually in older people.
    Your consultant may recommend surgery if your MCL damage cannot be helped by physiotherapy and your symptoms don't improve.

Diagnosis of an MCL injury

Discuss your symptoms with your consultant, they will carefully examine your knee. An MRI scan will likely be ordered to assess the damage.

Treatment of an MCL injury

Self care

Minor soft tissue injury can be managed at home with anti inflammatories such as ibuprofen and plenty of rest.

Physiotherapy

Partial tears can be managed with physiotherapy and splintage. Our physiotherapy team can give you exercises to help improve your range of motion and to build up muscle around your knee.

Surgery

Depending on your activity levels, profession and level of injury, your surgeon may offer MCL reconstruction.

The operation is normally carried out with minimally invasive surgery.

The ligament can be repaired in the following ways:

  • sewing the torn ends together
  • reattaching the ligament to the bone
  • inserting an internal brace
  • grafting a tendon (either from your own leg, or from a donor) in place of your MCL.

Complete recovery from surgery can take from six to 12 months.

“I had a great experience at the Cromwell Hospital; the staff were amazing, and is another level of professionalism compared to other hospitals I’ve stayed in.”

Lorne, patient

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Published: 14 January 2020 | Review: 14 January 2023

Disclaimer: This information is published by Cromwell Hospital and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence and experience from over 30 years of treating patients. It has been peer reviewed by Cromwell Hospital doctors. The content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. If you have any feedback on the content of this patient information document please email info@cromwellhospital.com or telephone 020 7460 5901.