The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is the most commonly damaged ligament in the knee. The MCL can be sprained or torn as a result of a blow to the outer side of the knee, by twisting the knee, or by quickly changing directions while walking or running. MCL injury most often occurs in athletes. The MCL is a small, thick band of tissue on the inner side of the knee joint. It connects two bones—the thighbone and the shin bone—preventing the knee from bending inward toward the other knee. When the knee is hit on the outer side of the leg or if the knee is twisted violently, the MCL can overstretch resulting in a partial or complete tear. Healing times vary from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, depending on the severity of the injury.


When you experience a MCL injury, you may feel:


  • Pain on the inner side of the knee
  • Swelling and bruising at the inner side of the knee
  • Swelling that spreads to the rest of the knee joint in 1 or 2 days following injury
  • Stiffness in the knee
  • Difficulty or pain when trying to bend or straighten the knee
  • An unstable feeling, as though the knee may give out or buckle
  • Pain or difficulty walking, sitting down, rising from a chair, or climbing stairs
  • A “popping” sound when injury occurs.

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Riverdale Sports Physical Therapy