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MCL Sprain - What Is MCL Sprain?

Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Sprain Overview

Structures of the Knee Joint
Knee Joint
An MCL sprain is an injury to the medial collateral ligament (MCL)--one of the collateral ligaments of the knee. A ligament is a band of tissue that connects a bone to another bone. Your medial collateral ligament is located on the inner side of your knee connecting the lower inner side of your thigh bone (femur) to the upper portion of your larger leg bone (tibia).

In an MCL sprain, your MCL is stretched beyond its limit causing mild pain. In some cases, the medial collateral ligament fibers are partially torn or it can totally rupture, considered as severe MCL sprain, which can cause severe pain and swelling.

What causes an MCL sprain?

You can injure your MCL if enough force is applied on the outer side of your knee causing stretching or tearing of your MCL. It is a fairly common injury among football players wherein a direct blow to the outer side of the knee causes it to bend inward.

In some cases, the anterior cruciate ligament can be injured along with an MCL sprain.


Depending on the severity of your MCL sprain, you may have symptoms of
  • Pain on the inner side of your knee
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty walking or feeling of your knee giving way when you try to walk.

MCL Sprain Treatment

Mild MCL sprain can usually be managed with RICE therapy. RICE stands for rest, ice application, compression and elevating your limb above your heart level. Taking over-the-counter pain reliever called Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may help relieve your pain. Your doctor may recommend using crutches and a brace to avoid putting stress on your injured knee.

Is Surgery Necessary?

Surgery for MCL sprain is not often required, especially when only the MCL is injured. However, your doctor may recommend surgery if your MCL does not heal after being immobilized or other structures of your knee are injured.

Your doctor will discuss with you other treatment options, such as physical therapy for your MCL sprain before considering surgical intervention.

Suggested Readings

Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury of the knee. Medline Plus, National Library of Medicine (NLM). Available at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001076.htm. Accessed on January 25, 2010

Collateral Ligament Injuries. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Available at http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00550. Accessed on January 25, 2010