Brief outline of medial collateral ligament (MCL) rupture
A medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain involves tearing or stretching of this ligament of the knee. The MCL is one of the most common structures of the knee to be injured. This ligament is designed to hold the knee joint together on the medial (inside) surface. Force applied to the outside of the knee (as in football tackle) causes the inside of the knee to open, stretching the MCL. The extent of the stretch determines whether the ligament simple stretches, tear partially, or tears completely.
Cause of medial collateral ligament (MCL) rupture
Force applied to the lateral side (outside) of the knee joint.
Signs and symptoms of medial collateral ligament (MCL) rupture
Pain over the medial portion of the knee. Swelling and tenderness. Instability in the knee and pain with weight bearing.
Complications if left medial collateral ligament (MCL) rupture unattended
The ligament, in rare cases, may repair itself if left unattended, but the injury could lead to a more severe sprain. The pain in the knee an instability of the joint may not go away. Continued activity on the injured knee could lead to injuries of the other ligaments, due to the instability.
Treatment for medial collateral ligament (MCL) rupture
R.I.C.E. Immobilisation. Anti-inflammatory medication. Physiotherapy.
Rehabilitation and prevention for medial collateral ligament (MCL) rupture
Depending on the severity of the rupture, simple rest and gradual introduction back to activity may be enough. For more severe ruptures, braces may be needed during the strengthening phase of rehabilitation and the early portion of the return to activity. The most severe rupture may require extended immobilisation and rest from the activity. As range of motion and strength begins to return, stationary bikes and other equipment may be used to ease back into activity. Ensuring adequate strength in the thigh muscles, and conditioning before starting any activity where the risk of hits to the knee is high, will help prevent these types of injury.
Long-term prognosis and surgery
The ligament will usually heal with no limitations, although in some cases there is residual “looseness” in the medial part of the knee. Very rarely is surgery required to repair the ligaments. Meniscus tearing that requires surgical repair may also result from an MCL rupture.