The Medial Collateral Ligament is one of the four primary ligaments to stabilize the knee joint. A ligament is the strong fibrous material to control the excessive motion of the knee by restricting the joint flexibility. The other three ligaments are Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL), and Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL).
MCL connects the end of the femur (thighbone/upper bone of the knee) and top of the tibia (shinbone/lower bone of the knee). As the term “medial” means “inside,” so it is on the inner side or medial side of the knee joint. Its basic function is to prevent the forces on the outer surface of the knee joint and does not allow the medial or inner side of the knee joint from broadening up under stress/pressure.
An MCL injury occurs when the outer side of the knee is hit. This collision widens the inside of the knee joint. This usually occurs during penalty in the football game, known as clipping. The patient would experience pain, swelling, and may feel that the knee is not stable and about to give out.
The medial injury is classified into three grades. Grade I includes incomplete MCL injury. The patient would have pain with pressure or load on the MCL. He may come back to normal activities in two to three weeks. In case of Grade I medial injury, ice and mild pain medications would help to reduce the swelling and pain.
A Grade II medial injury also includes incomplete MCL injury but there would be significant pain and swelling and the patient may come back to normal activities in a longer period of time, from three to four weeks. When Grade II MCL injury occurs, a hinged knee brace may be helpful. Hinged knee brace provides the best support for the knee.
A Grade III includes complete MCL injury. The patient would have significant pain and swelling and would feel like the knee is unstable and about to give out. In case of Grade III MCL injury, the patient is advised to use a knee immobilizer. It is different from hinged knee brace because it not only supports the knee but also prevents the knee joint to bend. It is to be removed several times a day for exercise of bending the knee.
According to some surgeons, a Grade IV MCL injury includes the MCL injury along with other ligament injuries. In these cases, some surgeons recommend surgery while others prefer non-operative treatment. This is health information regarding MCL. For any medical advice concerning your particular situation, consult your physician.