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Medial Collateral Ligament Tear

The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is the ligament that is located on the inner part of the knee joint. It runs from the femur (thighbone) to the top of the tibia (shinbone) and helps in stabilizing the knee. Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury can result in a stretch, partial tear, or complete tear of the ligament. Injuries to the MCL commonly occur as a result of a pressure or impact stress on the outside part of the knee. The Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) may be torn along with an MCL injury.

Patients with an MCL tear have symptoms such as knee pain, swelling, and locking or catching sensation in the knee during movement. Patients may also feel as though their knee may ‘give way’ suddenly or collapse.

Surgeons at ‘The Cambridge Knee’ will usually diagnose an MCL injury based on a history and physical examination of your knee. To determine laxity of the ligament, an MCL stress test may be performed by exerting pressure on the outside of your knee while your knee is bent approximately 25 degrees. In addition, other tests such as knee joint X-rays and an MRI scan may be done.

Treatment options include non-surgical and surgical treatment. Non-surgical treatment consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation; all assist in controlling pain and swelling. A knee brace may be worn to help immobilize your knee. Use of crutches may be recommended to protect your knee and to help support the weight on your knee while walking. Physiotherapy exercises may be recommended to improve knee motion and strength.
Most often, surgery is not necessary for the treatment of an MCL tear. In many cases, this injury cannot be prevented but, using proper techniques during sports or exercise can help prevent injury.

Medial Collateral Ligament Tear in Children

Medial collateral ligament tears are less common in children. Most often, it occurs in teenage athletes who participate in sports, such as football and rugby. Younger children below the age of 12 years are less likely to injure their MCL, as the bone where the ligament attaches may break more easily.

The skeletally immature knee in a child slightly differs from the adult knee and may result in mild variations of injury patterns. In children the physeal plates (growth plates) are weak compared with ligaments in the adult. The growth plate, also called the physeal plate, or physis, is the area of growing tissue made up of cartilage (softer material) found at the ends of the long bones in children. Therefore, any external force on the knee may cause physeal injury rather than a ligament injury.

RCS Logo British Orthopaedic AssociationRoyal College of Surgeons of EdinburghOTSISBritish Association for knee surgeryISOAMDU LogoOTSIS