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Medial Collateral Ligament Sprain

An MCL sprain is an injury to the thick ligament on the inside of the knee that helps to provide structure and stability to the joint.

What is an MCL sprain?

The Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) is found on the inside of the knee and is a tough fibrous tissue that attaches bone to bone

 

This ligament, along with the Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL), helps to form the knee joint by attaching to the shin and the thighbone, it also provides stability and ensure that the knee functions properly when you move.

 

Ligament sprains most commonly happen when the ligament is very quickly put on an excessive stretch, has a large force applied to it or takes direct contact. That is why ligament injuries are often easy to identify as they are normally linked to a traumatic incident such as a slip, trip, fall or collision.

 

In some cases, low-level MCL sprains are caused by repeated stress being applied to the knee causing the ligament to stretch. This can often be seen in dancers and gymnasts or people to have flat feet.

 

There are different levels of a sprain.

Grade 1 is an overstretch of the ligament which will leave small tears on some of the fibres.

Grade 2 is a partial tear. Somewhere along the ligament, there will be a significant tear to the ligament but it will still be attached

Grade 3 is a complete tear through the centre of the ligament. There is also something called an avulsion where the ligament is intact but has been pulled from the bone.

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How to treat an LCL sprain

The following protocol can immediately help a Grade 1&2 sprain or can be used after surgery on an MCL rupture.

 

The POLICE protocol

When acute pain first appears follow this protocol:

  • P: Protect the area. This can be changing footwear or wearing a supporting knee brace
  • OL: Optimal Loading. Take as much weight as you can without making things worse. You may need rest or crutches.
  • I: Ice the area for 20 minutes at a time to relieve inflammation.
  • C: Compress the area to help reduce any swelling.
  • E: Elevate the area by putting your leg on a few pillows

 

Exercises to help an MCL sprain.

Heel Slides

This exercise is designed to strengthen the hamstrings and improve the range of movement in the knee

  • Lie on your back on the ground.
  • Place a tea towel, plastic bag or sheet of paper under your foot.
  • Slide your heel towards your bum making sure to keep contact with the ground throughout the movement.
  • Slide your foot back out.

Frequency and duration 

  • Slide your foot in for a count of 2 seconds
  • Hold for 1 second.
  • Slide your foot out for a count of 2 seconds.

Quads Contraction

This exercise targets the small quad muscle on the inside of the knee that controls the last 10 degrees of extension and helps stabilise the knee.

  • Lie on the ground with a rolled-up towel or foam roller under your mid-thigh causing a bend in your knee.
  • Contract the quads lifting the foot off the ground.
  • Hold at the top then lower the foot back to the floor.

Frequency and duration

  • Raise for a count of 1 second.
  • hold for a count of 3 seconds.
  • lower for a count of 1 second.
  • 3x sets of 15 each leg.

Alternatives 

  • Easier - remove the towel and just press the knee into the ground.
  • Harder - add weight around the ankle

Hamstring Curl

This exercise is designed to strengthen the hamstring muscles on the back of the thigh.

  • Stand on one leg with one foot behind you.
  • You can lean on a pole or wall for stability.
  • Raise your heel to your bum making sure to keep your knees aligned.
  • Lower your foot back down until your toes are touching the ground.

Frequency and duration

  • Raise for a count of 2 seconds.
  • Hold for 1 second.
  • Lower your foot for a count of 2 seconds.
  • 3x sets of 12 on each leg.

Alternatives

  • Easier - reduce the height you lift your foot off the ground.
  • Harder - add weight to the ankle.

Lateral Step-ups

This exercise is designed to improve leg strength, balance and neuromuscular control.

  • Stand with one foot on a step and one foot on the ground.
  • Push through the foot on the step to raise yourself up.
  • Drive the trailing leg up till the knee is at 90°.
  • Hold at the top then lower yourself back down.

Frequency and duration

  • Raise for a count of 2 seconds.
  • Hold for 2 seconds.
  • Lower for a count of 2 seconds.
  • 3x sets of 12 on each leg.

Alternatives

  • Easier - side step up entirely placing both feet onto the step.
  • Harder - hold weights in your hands

 

Wall Squats

This exercise is designed to build leg and core strength

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back leaning against the wall.
  • Slide down the wall until you are in a seated squat position.
  • Hold at the bottom then return to the sanding position making sure that your back remains in contact with the wall at all times.

Frequency and duration 

  • Lower down for a count of 3 seconds.
  • Hold for a count of 2 seconds.
  • Return to standing for a count of 3 seconds
  • 3 sets of 12 squats

Alternatives 

  • Easier - change the exercise so that you are sitting down and standing up from a chair.
  • Harder - Hold for 4 seconds in the squat position.

The information on this site is intended for educational purposes.

You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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