Ligaments are strong, thick bands of collagenous fibres that connect bone to bone. A Ligaments role is to support a joint and to keep the joint from moving the wrong way.

The Medial collateral ligament (MCL) of the knee joint is otherwise also known as the tibial collateral ligament because of its attachment on tibial side. It is 1 of the 4 ligaments of the knee that connects the femur bone and tibia bone together forming one strong  (medial) side of the knee joint.

Proximally, the membranous band of tissue is attached to the medial side of the lower condyle of the femur bone and distally to the medial condyle of the tibia bone.

Medial collateral ligaments are more prone to injuries than other ligaments in our joints. The joint being one of the weight-bearing joints in our body, with increasing activity and increased forces going through the knee, the MCL stands a chance of getting injured.

An Injury to a ligament is called sprain.


How does the MCL ligament gets injured?

The main function of the ligament is to withstand the valgus forces or forces that put the pressure on joint displacing the bone away from its alignment. Activities that may injure your MCL are:

  • Direct or indirect impact to the joint.
  • Activities that involve twisting of the knee
  • Improper landing on the ground
  • A Sport related injury
  • Over stretching of the ligament.

How do you know if you have injured your MCL?

There are three types of MCL injury depending on severity, mechanism of injury and how badly the fibers are stretched or torn. Your therapist (physiotherapist / Soft tissue therapist) here at Faye Pattison Physiotherapy will thoroughly examine the cause of injury and the injured knee by performing certain ‘special tests’ to confirm MCL injury.

A stress test is one technique that your therapist will perform on your injured knee where he/ she would apply stress on the medial side of your knee joint.

Accordingly, he/she will note the degree of MCL injury.


Knee tests for MCL injury

Types of MCL Injuries


1st Degree

  • The ligament fibers are intact
  • The pain is usually localised
  • Minimal swelling
  • Bluish coloration (bruise) at the injured site
  • No instability and there will be a mild functional disability.

2nd Degree

  • The ligament fibers are partially torn.
  • Painful
  • Moderate swelling
  • Instability of the joint
  • There will be difficult using the limb or difficulty moving

3rd Degree

  • The ligament fibers are completely torn
  • There will be no pain/ severe pain as the nerve fibers are completely torn.
  • Severe swelling, sometimes bleeding under the skin
  • The joint will be unstable
  • You won’t be able to bear weight on your limbs.

How Can Faye Pattison Physiotherapy help you?

First and foremost, it is important to consult an expert therapist if your knee hurts, though the 1st and 2nd degree MCL injury look quite manageable by self, the pain subsides with rest and gets neglected but it is liable to repeated injury. Also, the affected tissues around the MCL are prone to being in a state of ‘shock’ and ‘spasm’ which need to be addressed.

After the examination of your MCL injury, your physiotherapist / soft tissue therapist will plan the treatment protocol as per the degree of injury.

Our aim is to:

  • Reduce pain and swelling
  • Normalise Joint movement
  • Strengthen the lower limb and the muscles
  • Improve the joint alignment and maintain muscle length
  • Improve your functional activity and guide you to return to the job
  • Minimise the reoccurrence of the injury by advice, treatment and strengthening

If you believe you may have an MCL injury, then follow these steps below and get yourself booked into one of our diaries for an assessment.


For a 1st degree MCL Injury

  • Rest
  • Ice/ cold therapy
  • Elevation the leg with gentle ankle toe movements
  • Avoid any weight baring activities that aggravate the MCL until assessed.
  • Gradual strengthening exercises of the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles

The sprain usually heals within 1-2 weeks.

For a 2nd degree MCL Injury

  • Rest
  • Ice/ cold therapy
  • Elevation the leg with gentle ankle toe movements
  • The use of knee supports or a brace for support and protection (if required)
  • Knee taping
  • Knee strengthening exercise regimen Prescribed by an expert

The sprain takes around 6-8 weeks to heal.

For a 3rd Degree MCL Injury

  • Rest
  • Ice/ cold therapy
  • Elevation the leg with gentle ankle toe movements
  • A knee brace is advised, use of a crutch may be required to avoid weight bearing on the joint to allow healing
  • Then progressing to tolerated movements of the limb
  • Gradual strengthening exercise regimen

The sprain takes 3 to 4 months to heal.

In some cases of a 3rd degree MCL injury, it requires surgery where an arthroscopy procedure is used to operate. It is an advanced procedure, the concerned Surgeon makes a small cut on the site through which a thin camera is inserted to examine the extent of ligament torn. The stitches are then made and leave to heal with the closure of cut.

Sports for MCL injury blog

To Conclude

Whether with or without surgery, after an MCL injury, you will be able to return to your activity or play sports but only after the correct rehabilitation has been done with your physiotherapist or soft tissue therapist and only when your therapist lets you know when it is ok to return!

If you are suffering from knee pain or know you have an MCL injury then get in touch! We deal with some of the best orthopaedic surgeons in the area so if we cant fix you, we know who to put you in front of!