Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Injury

A MCL injury is a tear or sprain of the band of tissue inside the knee that connects the thighbone to the lower leg bone. Injuries to the MCL are usually caused by a hard hit to the knee or a sudden twist or pivot, and most often occur during sports that involve contact or quick lateral movements, such as badminton, basketball, and table tennis.

MCL injuries usually accompany lateral collateral ligament (LCL) trauma as well.

Measuring an MCL Injury

MCL damage is measured in three grades:

  • Grade 1: The ligament is slightly overstretched. Expect soreness, pain and swelling.
  • Grade 2: The ligament is stretched to the point of loose. Expect pain, swelling and discomfort, but also some loss of function and instability in the joint.
  • Grade 3: A complete tear of the ligament in which the knee joint is rendered incapable of supporting your weight.

MCL damage is measured by three grades


Symptoms of an MCL Injury

If you feel pain on the inside of your knee or experience some loss of mobility, see your doctor. A simple examination will usually produce a diagnosis. If your doctor suspects further complications or a different reason for your discomfort, she may require an X-ray or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan.


Swelling treatment includes the immediate application of cold packs or ice wrapped in towels. Maintain for fifteen minute intervals every hour.

Your doctor may recommend a brace for protection and support and for a grade 2 injury, crutches.

An easy recovery will also involve a customized physio programme to strengthen the knee and maintain flexibility. If needed, consult your doctor or pharmacist for pain relief medication.

Occasionally, an MCL injury will require surgery. This generally occurs when an injury does not respond to treatment and heal naturally. The procedure is relatively straightforward. The ligament is reattached to the bone with stitches, bone staples, medical screws or a suture anchor.

How long will it take to recover?

A grade 1 injury usually heals in approximately two weeks. Expect a month for a grade 2 and up to eight weeks for grade 3. In the event of surgery, a full recovery may require three months.

During the recovery period, it’s important to refrain from activities that will stress the knee and cause potential re-injury.