An MCL tear is where the medial collateral ligament on the inner side of the knee gets overstretched and damaged. It most commonly happens when there is a sudden twisting force through the knee which damages some or all the fibers of the ligament.
The MCL is one of four ligaments that helps stabilize the knee and is found on the inner side of the knee joining the femur and the tibia. Its job is to hold the tibia and femur bones together and limit the sideways widening of the gap between them.
You can hurt your MCL during activities that involve bending, twisting, or a quick change of direction. For example, the MCL can be injured in football or soccer when the outside of the knee is hit. This type of injury can also occur during skiing and in other sports with lots of stop-and-go movements, jumping, or weaving.
The symptoms of a tear in the medial collateral ligament are knee swelling, locking or catching of the knee with movement, pain and tenderness along the inside of the joint, and your knee giving way or feeling like it is going to give way when it is active or stressed in a certain way.
In order to diagnose an MCL tear, your doctor will perform a physical exam and the inside of the knee will be checked for pain or tenderness. Your physician may order an X-ray or an MRI to determine how severe the tear may be, or to rule out other potential causes of pain such as fractures or broken bones.
Physical therapy for patients with an MCL tear is vital to the healing process. Your physical therapist will show you exercises to strengthen the knee, and to ease the pain that this condition may cause. They can also help you to get back to your previous level of activity while reducing the likelihood of future recurrence. If it is necessary for you to have an aide for walking, your therapist can help guide you in what may be best for you.