The MCL or the Medial Collateral Ligament is an integral member of the 4 pillar knee ligaments. It acts as the link between the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia). A torn MCL is a tear in the ligament that can hamper running, walking and other day-to-day activities that are supported by the MCL. A torn MCL is a result of a valgus force on the knee and is one of the more common knee injuries.
Source: First Aid 4 Sport
What Is An MCL Injury?
A strain or injury to the MCL is known as a torn MCL and there are 3 grades that determine the severity and recovery period.
This is the mildest of the injury and is often a result of only a strain in the knee ligaments rather than a tear. Recovery usually takes 1-2 weeks which means you won’t be out for too long.
This occurs in case of a partial tear in the ligaments but may still hinder walking and other activities. Recovery can vary between 3-4 weeks.
The most severe of cases occurs when the ligament experiences a complete tear and often requires complete bed rest during the initial stages. Recovery in case of grade 3 tears can take about 4-5 months.
Source: Muscles O Mania
The Causes Of A Torn MCL
The knee is a complex joint, and it is not uncommon to tear other ligaments along with the MCL. Here are few causes that can result in damage to the knee and the MCL.
- Overstretching of the leg
- A direct blow to the knee
- Bad landing during jumps
A torn MCL has distinct symptoms that will indicate a tear.
- Any click or pop sound after a bad landing or a poorly timed tackle.
- Pain on the inside of the knee accompanied by swelling after a while.
- A feeling the joint locking up when walking.
- Inability to put pressure on the joint during walking.
In most cases, a physician can diagnose a torn MCL with just a physical examination of your knee. During this examination, the doctor is likely to bend and pressurize the joint to determine mobility. They will want to check for swelling and inflammation as well.
In case of grade 2 or grade 3 tears, an X-Ray or even an MRI may be required to assess the damage before any medication and physcial therapy is prescribed.
In order to reduce the pain and swelling, the first and most recommended treatment is applying an ice pack to the affected joint. The ice pack needs to be applied for 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours. It reduces the pain and decreases swelling around and in the knee.
Along with the ice pack, you may also be prescribed painkillers with anti-inflammatory properties to keep pain at a minimum and prevent further swelling.
During this period resting the knee is important. Avoid putting any weight on the joint which means you’ll probably be needed crutches to move around. A few weeks into the recovery phase you switch to hinged knee braces to move around.
Surgery is only needed in the worst case scenario. This means the ligament has been torn beyond its ability to self-heal. During the surgery, the torn ligament is re-attached to the bones using either stitches, staples, screw etc.
To help with this, a camera is inserted by making a small incision around the knee. Recoveries after surgeries are usually slower and will require constant consultation from the surgeon before you begin rehab.
Tips During Rehab
- Wear your knee brace while walking, training or even during light exercises.
- Avoid any training or activities that involve heavy contact.
- Perform exercises such as quad muscle contraction.
- Up the workout intensity as you get better.
- Perform these exercises with expert guidance to prevent further damage.
Once you are declared fully fit by the medical team, returning to action shouldn’t be an issue. Yes, it might take some training sessions to back the match fitness and form but a full recovery is sure to be good news.