The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is located on the inner part of the knee joint. It runs from the femur (thighbone) to the top of the tibia (shinbone) and helps in stabilizing the knee. Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury can result in a stretch, partial tear, or complete tear of the ligament. Injuries to the MCL commonly occur with overloading the outside part of the knee.
Patients with an MCL tear have symptoms such as knee pain, swelling, instability, and locking or catching sensation in the knee during movement. Patients may feel as though the knee may 'give out' suddenly or buckle.
MCL injury is routinely diagnosed upon examination of your knee. Imaging such as knee X-rays and MRI can augment understanding of your injury and guide treatment.
Treatment may be surgical or non-surgical. Non-surgical treatment consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE protocol); all assist in controlling pain and swelling. A knee brace may be worn to help stabilize the knee. Use of crutches may be recommended to protect your knee and to keep you from putting weight on your knee while walking. Physical therapy exercises may be recommended to improve knee motion and strength.
Most often, surgery is not necessary for the treatment of an MCL tear. If the tear is complete or another ligament is involved, surgery may be recommended to stabilize the knee and improve functional outcomes.
Medial Collateral Ligament Tear in Children
Medial collateral ligament tears are less common in children. Most often, it occurs in teenage athletes who participate in sports, such as football and ice hockey. Younger children below the age of 12 years are less likely to injure their MCL, as in them, the bone where the ligament attaches may break.
The skeletally immature knee in a child differs from the adult knee and can result in variations of injury patterns. In children, the epiphyseal plates (growth plates) are weak compared with ligaments in the adults. Growth plate also called the epiphyseal plate or physis is the area of growing tissue made up of cartilage (rubbery material) found at the ends of the long bones in children. Therefore, any extraneous force on the knee can cause physeal injury rather than the ligament injury. Hence MCL injuries are less common in children.