What is an MCL Injury?
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is one of the four main ligaments found within the knee joint. The MCL begins at the end of the femur (thighbone) and extends to the top of the tibia (shinbone). Located on the inside of the knee, the ligament provides stability when the knee is moved from side to side and protects against widening of the inside of the joint. A patient may experience an MCL injury when extreme force is applied to the outside portion of the knee, such as when a football player is tackled with impact on the lateral side of the joint. A medial collateral ligament tear may occur when the ligament is stretched beyond its normal range of motion. If this occurs, Dr. Matthew Provencher, orthopedic knee specialist serving the Vail, Aspen, Colorado Springs and Denver, Colorado communities, is available to diagnose and treat the MCL tear and return patients to an active, pain-free lifestyle.
An MCL injury is quite common and typically occurs during a hard hit, fall onto the outside of the knee or an awkward landing during sports activities. A medial collateral ligament tear is classified in a Grade 1-3 system, ranging from a stretch to a complete MCL tear.
- Grade 1- An incomplete, mild tear where the MCL is stretched but still intact
- Grade 2- An incomplete, partial tear that creates pain and instability when a patient attempts to pivot
- Grade 3- A complete MCL tear that causes extreme pain within the knee joint
What are Symptoms of an MCL Injury?
The hallmark symptom of an MCL injury is knee pain. Patients may also experience swelling, bruising and instability when weight is placed on the injured knee.
How to Know if you Have an MCL Injury
Dr. Provencher will determine an MCL injury with a combination of a physical examination, medical review, a series of x-rays and an MRI scan. The physical examination is designed to test range of motion, function, strength and overall pain following a medial collateral ligament tear. Dr. Provencher will view the x-rays in great detail to rule out damage to the bony structures. He will view the MRI to assess severity of ligament damage and to confirm no other soft tissues were injured during the MCL tear.