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  • Dr Claire Chittleborough

Medial Collateral Ligament Injury


If you regularly play sport, you may be aware of your medial collateral ligament (MCL). This ligament is one of the most common parts of the knee to be injured, usually as a result of force to the body or a fall.


What is the medial collateral ligament?


The MCL runs along the inner edge of your knee and helps connect your shin bone (tibia) to your thigh bone (femur). This ligament plays a major role in keeping your knee stable when you walk. Along with the lateral collateral ligament, the MCL controls the sideways movement of the knee.


How do MCL injuries occur?


Injuries to the MCL can take various forms - it could be a partial or complete tear, a stretched ligament, or a detachment of the ligament from the bone.


Force to the outside of the knee can cause the MCL to stretch out so far that it sprains or tears. This commonly occurs in sports such as football, rugby, hockey or netball where players are liable to collide with one another. If you’ve ever felt your knee forced inwards during a tackle, you might have an idea of what we’re talking about.


Impact from a fall, or unexpected sudden movements can also damage this ligament. MCL injuries can occur when twisting the knee - a common cause in skiers - or due to repeated stress, which can happen to swimmers, especially with breaststroke.


Another common issue experienced by sportspeople is injury to the “unhappy triad” – which is a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial meniscus and medial collateral ligament (MCL). This usually happens when you experience a hard blow to the knee while your foot is fixed on the ground.


What are the symptoms of an MCL injury?


MCL injuries are extremely painful. You will likely feel pain along the inside edge of your knee, and it may be tender to the touch. There might also be swelling and/or bruising. Many people report hearing a pop when the injury occurs.


Some people find it difficult to walk after an MCL injury, and even if you are able to walk, you might find that your knee is unstable, or that it “wobbles” when you move, making you feel like you’re going to fall.


The knee might feel stiff, or you may experience the joint locking when you try to walk.


How can you treat an MCL injury?


There are different grades of MCL sprain:


Grade 1 is a slight stretch where the joint remains stable

Grade 2 is a partial tear; and

Grade 3 is a full tear of the ligament.

In grade 3 cases, you may require surgery to reattach the ligament.


If you injure your MCL, you must rest your knee. An ice pack may relieve pain and reduce swelling, but you’ll also need to keep the joint elevated in the early stages. Once the initial injury has settled, it’s time to start moving again.


A chiropractor can help improve mobility in the knee and control the swelling, while building up strength in the knee with safe strengthening exercises. Spinal manipulation will also be important as the knee injury will affect the whole chain from the core down to the toes.


Depending on the severity of the injury, you may also need a brace or bandage to protect and compress the area.


Taken a big tackle or had a rough fall? Give us a call on 0413 774 399 or email us at claire.chittleborough2@gmail.com and we’ll assess the damage as soon as possible.

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