MCL Injuries

Learn about Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) injuries, knee injury, causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment at Lehigh Valley Health Network.

A medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury is an injury to the ligament on the inner part of the knee. This ligament provides stability to the inner knee and keeps your shinbone in place. Injuries to the MCL can include a stretch, partial tear or complete tear of the ligament. Ligament tears also are known as sprains.

Ligaments are bands of tough, elastic connective tissue that surround a joint to give support and limit the joint’s movement. When these ligaments are damaged in the knee, the joint may become unstable. A torn ligament severely limits knee movement, resulting in the inability to pivot, turn or twist the leg.

Ligament damage is often caused by a sports injury. The MCL can be stretched or torn by a blow to the outer side of the knee, which can occur when playing sports like hockey or football.

Treatment for minor MCL injuries include:

  • RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
  • Medications, such as ibuprofen 
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Knee brace
  • Activity limitations

Large MCL tears may require surgery and physical therapy.