The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is the largest and strongest of four major ligaments that are essential for the stability of the knee joint. It is named the MCL because it is located on the “medial” side (middle) of the knee joint. It is a “collateral ligament” because it connects the bottom of the femur (thigh bone) to the top of the tibia (shin bone). The MCL prevents excessive widening of the inside of the knee joint.
The MCL can be injured with a direct blow to the outside of the knee, or what is known as a “valgus force” injury. When the outside of the knee is struck, the outside of the joint buckles and causes the inside to widen and potentially over-stretches or tears the MCL.
Symptoms of an MCL injury include pain, swelling and sometimes bruising along the inside of the knee. Pain from an MCL injury can be reproduced by placing the knee in a “knock knee” position as this puts stress on the ligament.
Early treatment of MCL injuries involves the RICE regimen; Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation of the affected limb until swelling subsides. The knee loses strength and stability after an injury.
Aggressive physical therapy addressing the strength and stability of the knee and entire lower extremity are critical to get the patient “back on their feet” and prevent further injury.