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MCL Tear – A Costly Tear for an Athlete

What is an MCL Tear?

MCL Tear
MCL stands for medical collateral ligament, also called tibial collateral ligament, one of the four tissue bands running in the knee and located on its inner side. It performs the important task of preventing the knee from getting bent inward and connects the thighbone to the lower leg bone.

A sprain or tear in the MCL could be caused by injury sustained during activities or sports involving quick direction change, twisting or bending, particularly soccer, football and skiing.

What are the Symptoms?

Swelling, tenderness and pain are two of the major symptoms of MCL tear. A few hours after the tear-causing injury occurs, the pain increases to the point of making it difficult to move the knee. In some cases bruising could be observed. The doctor would diagnose the condition through MRI, X-ray and other such tests after observing the patient’s range of movement and the tenderness and swelling.

What are the Treatment Options?

Treatment options for MCL injuries involve home remedies such as ice and rest as well as anti-inflammatory medication. Crutches and brace would be recommended by the doctor for protecting the knee. During the recovery period, which would last a few weeks, the patient would obviously need to take some degree of rest and avoid those sports or activities which he/she was performing routinely as an athlete though some gentle movement would be recommended to facilitate better healing.

Ultimately, the treatment and recovery time depend on the severity of the injury. MCL tear injuries are classified into grade 1, which is mild, grade 2, which is moderate, and grade 3 which is severe.

  • Grade 1 injuries can be treated with home treatment and rest in around 1 to 3 weeks while grade 2 injuries take around a month and demand greater attention on the weight that is placed on the affected leg. A brace may need to be worn while crutches would be required for grade 1 injuries.
  • Grade 3 injuries would generally take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks during which a hinged brace would be needed and much greater care taken on the weight placed on the affected leg.

In some cases of MCL tears, physical therapy may be advised to strengthen the hamstrings and muscles and improving the motion range. Physical therapy can help the athlete return to his/her routine faster than usual. Some severe MCL tears may require surgery to heal.

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