MCL Tears

The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is one of four major connective tissues in the knee that can be susceptible to injury

While the ligament can become stretched and sprained, a severe enough injury can cause it to tear completely. In addition to being quite painful, such damage can also greatly risk the long-term stability of the knee itself.

Whether you suspect a sprain, tear, or other injury in your knee, never hesitate to reach out to us for help! The sooner the condition is properly identified and addressed, the better your chances of a faster, more complete recovery!

What is an MCL Tear? What are the Symptoms?

The MCL runs along the inner side of the knee, connecting the femur (thighbone) and tibia (shinbone). Its main partner is the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), which is found along the outside of the knee. Together, they help keep the knee stable and securely held in place.

A typical injury to the MCL occurs due to an impact to the outside of the knee (causing strain to the inside of the knee), or when you try to perform a quick turn to the side but your foot is firmly planted in the ground. Both of these situations are common sports injuries, but other situations can present similar opportunities for misfortune.

Frequent symptoms of an MCL tear include:

  • Severe pain along the inside of the knee.
  • A “popping” sound at the time of injury.
  • Swelling over time (it is not always immediate).
  • Stiffness in the knee.
  • Difficulty straightening or bending the knee.
  • A feeling of instability, as if the knee may “give out.”

Not all symptoms may be present. Any combination of them is more than enough reason for calling us.

mcl tear

Treating a Torn MCL

Before anything else, it is very important that we confirm what exactly has happened to your knee. A suspected tear might be a bad sprain instead, for example. It is also possible that more than one of the ligaments has been damaged in the injury. Each factor will have a different effect on how we approach treatment.

We can often diagnose an MCL tear through a physical examination, but might have an imaging test performed if we have any specific concerns or confirmations we need to make.

If the tear is relatively mild, it can often heal naturally with proper treatment and protection. This typically involves:

  • Resting and taking as much weight as possible off the affected knee. (We may recommend the use of crutches in some cases).
  • Regular periods of icing and elevation of the knee.
  • Wearing a brace or other equipment that restricts harmful movement of the knee.
  • Taking medications to help relieve pain and inflammation.

Once swelling and discomfort have subsided enough, we may then recommend stretches and exercises to help safely rebuild strength and mobility in the knee.

Depending on the severity of the tear, it may take anywhere from 1-8 weeks to recover to a point where you may return to normal activities. It is crucial to follow all instructions carefully during this time, and only return to activities when cleared to do so. 

In uncommon cases, if a tear is particularly severe or complicated, we may recommend surgery to repair or rebuild the ligament. If surgery is a consideration, we will be certain to fully discuss the details of a procedure with you, as well as answer any and all questions you may have.

Don’t Take the L

An MCL tear – like any tear of a ligament – is never a fun experience. But with the proper care, you can get back to action with little risk of complications, instability, or other future problems.

Schedule an appointment at our Roseville or Carmichael offices by calling (916) 961-3434 or by clicking the “Contact Us!” button below.

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Get In Touch

St. George Medical Center

6620 Coyle Avenue,
Suite 202

Carmichael, CA 95608

Roseville Office

576 N Sunrise Avenue,
Suite 230

Roseville, CA 95661

Phone: 916-961-3434          Toll Free: 888-447-0733

Hours: Monday – Friday, 8am-5pm

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