The Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) is is the ligament located on the inner side of the knee responsible for connecting the shin bone to the thigh bone. A strain or sprain most often occurs if excessive directional force is applied to the ligament. Sprains are generally classified by degree.
A first degree sprain is damage to only a few ligament fibres.
A second degree sprain is damage to more ligament fibres but the ligament still remains intact.
A third degree sprain occurs when the ligament is completely ruptured. As a result of the excessive force needed to cause a third degree injury, other knee elements such as the Meniscus or the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) can be damaged. For third degree sprains it is important to evaluate the entire knee to assess the damage to the entire structure.
MCL injuries are a common occurrence in sports, more specifically, contact sports. Direct force is often, unintentionally, applied by the opponent to the outside of the leg directly above the knee. This force causes the ligaments to be stretched past their intended capacity causing injury.
Another common incidence for this injury is shoes or cleats getting stuck in the grass or turf. As the player attempts to change direction the foot remains planted and sudden excessive force is applied to the ligament causing damage.
Signs and Symptoms
Depending on the severity of the injury signs and symptoms may vary.
First Degree Symptoms
- Soreness in the knee
- Sensitivity to touch or pressure
- Pain when bending the knee
- Pain when bearing weight on the knee
Second Degree Symptoms (In addition to first degree symptoms)
- Swelling within 24 hours of injury
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
Third Degree Symptoms
- Fluid in the knee
- Inability to bear weight
- Damage to other knee structures
- Instability of the knee