MCL tears affect the outside of the knee joint and are common in contact sports such as soccer and rugby. Surgery is only required in severe cases.

MCL Tears

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What is an MCL Tear?

The medial collateral ligament is located on the inside of the knee and works alongside the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and other ligaments to stabilise the knee joint. MCL tears usually happen suddenly during contact sports or accidents. When the knee is hit from the outside, it causes the medial ligament to stretch. The degree of damage varies between sprain, partial and complete tear.

In severe cases, the injury is usually accompanied by a popping sound accompanied by swelling, pain on the inside of the knee and a general feeling of instability. Climbing stairs or bending the knee may be difficult and painful. MCL tears can be diagnosed using a physical examination and confirmed with additional imaging, such as MRI.

How is it treated? 

Treatment will depend on the extent of the injury and an MRI examination is useful in determining whether surgery is required. Most tears are able to heal with rehabilitation. Rest, ice and elevation can assist in controlling the swelling and pain. It may help to wear a knee brace to protect the joint, provide extra support and limit the range of movement. Physiotherapy is recommended as a way to strengthen the surrounding muscles and improve the range of motion in the knee joint.  In severe cases reconstructive surgery may be required.

How long will it last?

The healing process will very much depend on the severity of the tear. A mild tear (grade one) is likely to heal within two weeks. A grade two tear may take up to four weeks to fully repair and a more severe grade three tear could take up to eight weeks. It is quite likely that a more serious MCL injury could be accompanied by additional injuries to other structures in the knee and this would increase the recovery period.

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