MCL Injury

What is the MCL?

The MCL is the medial collateral ligament of the knee. Ligaments are tough, flexible bands of tissues that hold bones together.

The MCL is located on the inside of the knee. It connects the bottom of the thigh bone (femur) to the top of the shinbone (tibia). It is important for stability in the knee and prevents excessive side to side movement.

MCL injuries can be partial tears or complete tears. They commonly occur with twisting motions or changes of direction while running. Landing at an awkward angle with the knee slightly twisted can also injure the MCL. It can also occur as a result of a contact injury.

Signs and symptoms of MCL injuries

  • May feel a pop at the time of injury
  • Pain on the inside of the knee
  • Swelling at the time of injury or quite soon afterwards
  • Feelings of instability, as if the knee is going to “give way”
  • Stiffness and reduced range of motion
  • Limping

MCL injuries can be mild, moderate or severe. Depending on the mechanism of injury, in more severe cases you may also sustain damage to other ligaments such as the ACL. Most isolated MCL injuries can be successfully treated without surgery. If it is torn in such a way that it cannot heal or is associated with other ligament tears, surgery may be recommended.

Treating MCL injuries

Initially after the injury, you should follow RICE principles. That is, rest, ice, compression and elevation. This will help reduce pain and swelling. Taking pain killers and anti-inflammatories will assist in pain relief.

If you are limping severely, you may initially require crutches to walk so that you can limit the amount of weight you put on your affected knee. A knee brace may also help to support the knee.

Physiotherapy will help to improve pain and swelling through soft tissue techniques and joint mobilisations. Ultrasound, ice or heat packs, and TENS can also be used to speed up your recovery. You will be prescribed an exercise program to help improve the strength and range of motion in your knee. Your exercises will be tailored towards the activity or sport that you are aiming to get back to.

If you require surgery, Physiotherapy helps to increase strength and range of motion post-operatively.

Can I play sport with a torn MCL?

After injuring the MCL, you will usually need to take time off sport. You can continue to do low impact activities such as walking and swimming, as long as there is no pain or feelings of giving way.

Most people who have a low grade tear can return to their sport within 6 weeks. The more severe the injury, the longer you will have to rest before returning to high impact activity.

Your physiotherapist will guide you through a functional training program to ensure your knee is able to cope with the demands of your sport.

How to prevent MCL tears

Improving the strength, balance, and flexibility of your knee will ensure it is strong and stable to cope with the demands of your sport, lessening your chance of injury.

It is also important to learn proper techniques for jumping, landing, and changing direction while playing sport so that you are placing less stress on your knee. Your physiotherapist can assess how you perform these movements and provide feedback so that your knee is in an optimal position.

If you are suffering from an MCL injury and would like some more information or advice, contact us! Give us a call on 9875 3760 or email We would be more than happy to help you. If you suspect you have injured your MCL book an appointment so we can assess your knee to confirm the diagnosis and design a treatment plan to help you get back to the sport or activity that you love.

If you need physical therapy to relieve
your pain, and would like some more
information, feel free to contact us!

Give us a call on (02) 9875 3760 or email We would
be more than happy to help you.