Ligament Tears – Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL)

The knee is the largest joint in the body and is vital to movement. The stability of the knee mostly depends on the ligaments and muscles around it. Therefore, injuries to knee ligaments are common. In 2006, more than 12 million people visited orthopaedic surgeons because of knee problems.

Two sets of ligaments in the knee give it stability: the cruciate ligaments and the collateral ligaments.

The collateral ligaments are located on the inner (medial) side of the knee joint and the outer (lateral) side of the knee joint. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) connects the thighbone to the shinbone, and provides stability to the inner side of the knee. The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) connects the thighbone to the other bone in the lower portion of the leg (fibula) and stabilizes the outer side.

Collateral Ligament Injuries

Injuries to the MCL are usually caused by contact on the outside of the knee and are accompanied by sharp pain on the inside of the knee. The LCL is rarely injured.


If the MCL has a small partial tear, conservative treatment usually works. Remember the acronym RICE:

  • Rest the knee to give the ligament time to heal
  • Ice can be applied two or three times a day for 15 to 20 minutes each time.
  • Compress the injury to limit swelling. You may have to wear a bandage or brace for a while.
  • Elevate the knee whenever possible.

You should also consult your physician about a course of rehabilitation exercises for good healing.

If the collateral ligament is completely torn, or torn in such a way that the ligament cannot heal, you may need surgery. Repair may bring good results, with a return to good knee stability. After satisfactory rehabilitation, many people resume their previous levels of activity.


A rehabilitation plan is needed if you have a collateral ligament injury.

Most rehabilitation plans include:

  • Passive range-of-motion exercises designed to restore flexibility
  • Braces to control joint movement.
  • Exercises to strengthen the quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh. Muscle strength is needed to provide the knee joint with as much support and stability as possible when weight is placed on it.
  • Additional exercises on a high-seat exercise bicycle, followed by more strenuous quadriceps exercise.

Your progress and the ability of the knee to function as a normal knee will determine how long you must use crutches and a brace.

Maximum Medical Improvement – 2 to 12 weeks depending on degree of severity
Work Status till MMI – Desk work, no torsional activities