Your MCL, which is short for medial collateral ligament, is one of the four major ligaments in your knee. The thick membranous band is located on the inside of your knee joint, attaching at your femur and tibia. The MCL prevents forces that cause your knee to collapse inward.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
The MCL is commonly sprained or torn during athletic activities, when there is a valgus stress, or a blow from the outside of your knee 4. Football and basketball players are susceptible to MCL tears. You can take steps to determine whether it’s likely you’ve torn your MCL, but an MRI is needed for a true diagnosis.
A doctor will likely order an MRI to confirm your ligament tear.
MCL Knee Injuries
Your mechanism of knee injury can give a clue to whether or not you injured your MCL. Most MCL tears are caused by a blow to the outside of your knee, which causes your knee joint to collapse toward the center of your body, placing stress on your MCL that causes it to rupture.
Torn MCL Symptoms
How to Tell if You Have a Bruised MCL
According to Virtual Sports Injury Clinic, a torn MCL is usually associated with significant knee swelling, a locking or catching as you extend and flex your knee joint, pain or tenderness to the touch at the inside of your knee — and your knee may give way when you’re walking 13.
Try Home Remedies
Decrease pain and swelling to allow more accurate diagnosis testing. If your knee is too swollen, you will be unable to determine whether your MCL is injured. Decrease swelling by applying ice, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (if approved by your doctor) and elevating your knee above your heart.
MCL Tear Test
Pain in the Knee & Occasional Popping When Walking
Your doctor will likely perform an MCL tear test called the valgus stress test of your knee 4. You will sit on a table with both legs extended, the leg of your injured knee slightly hanging off one side. The doctor will rest her hip against your knee, then place her closest hand on the inside of your knee to keep it steady against her hip.
She will then reach across and place her other hand on the inside of your ankle, pulling your ankle toward her. If your knee joint feels flimsy and has excessive laxity or is allowed to open further than normal, the MCL is torn or if you have an MCL sprain.
- Your doctor will likely perform an MCL tear test called the valgus stress test.
- The doctor will rest her hip against your knee, then place her closest hand on the inside of your knee to keep it steady against her hip.
See a Doctor
Visit a medical professional to receive a true diagnosis. According to Virtual Sports Injury Clinic, surgery is not typically needed for an MCL tear, but MCL tears are frequently associated with simultaneous damage to your anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, and it’s important you receive the treatment needed for full recovery 3.
Read more: MCL Injury & Walking
Recovery and Considerations
While you’re waiting to determine the extent of your injury, avoid additional stress by wearing a knee brace for support. If the pain is significant, a medical professional may suggest that you use crutches.
Read more: A Diet for a Torn Ligament
How to Tell if You Have a Bruised MCL
Pain in the Knee & Occasional Popping When Walking
How to Rehab a Torn Meniscus
How to Tell if You Strained Your Knee
Pain From a Torn LCL Ligament When Walking
Ligament Tear & Knee Hyperextension
How to Rehab a Suspensory Strain
Knee Pain in the Medial Collateral Ligament When Running
How to Use a Patellar Tendonitis Strap
Ankle Strain Injuries While Pregnant
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- UCSF Health: MCL Tear Diagnosis
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- OrthopaedicsOne: Valgus Stress Test of the Knee
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Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.