Medial Collateral ligament injury
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is situated along the inner (medial) side of the knee. It stretches as a band between its attachments on the femur (thigh bone) down onto the tibia (shin bone). The primary role of the MCL is to stabilise the knee joint against forces pushing the knee inwards. It is most frequently injured in the sporting environment and can be damaged in isolation or in combination with other structures, typically the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
If injured, it causes pain on the inner side of the knee and if badly torn can cause localised swelling and bruising. The knee will feel stiff and sore to a variable degree and most patients are able to weight bear but sometimes are initially in need of crutches and a supportive knee brace if there is a high grade injury or a lot of pain. Initial assessment may be painful but demonstrate slight opening of the joint to stress. X-Rays are usually normal and an MRI scan is the best way to delineate the injury in more detail to guide a treatment regime and give expectations as to recovery time.
The good news about an injury to the MCL is that it has a good inherent capacity to heal and it rarely needs surgical treatment. The vast majority of tears settle down well with appropriate time and physiotherapy. The time frame out of sports can vary from a few weeks to a few months depending on the grade and severity of injury. If the injury is associated with an ACL tear then it can alter the treatment plan and the MCL is often left to settle down first before the ACL surgery takes place. There are only a few instances when may be necessary. If required, this will be discussed at your consultation in more detail.