Medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear

  • Medial ligament tears occur due to a sudden overload of the ligament, usually associated with impact, twisting or a collision
  • The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is actually two ligaments – a long ligament and a shorter deeper ligament
  • As the MCL is located outside the knee joint, the injury isn’t associated with a large amount of visible swelling (as it doesn’t collect inside the joint)


  • Anti-inflammatories are a bad idea as the MCL is very vascular and the medication only causes additional bleeding
  • The ligament has a great chance of healing due to excellent blood supply. Protecting the ligament from over-stretch with a lockable hinge knee during the recovery phase is vital.
    • Braces need to be locked at 15-30° initially and progressively increase range towards 0-90° at around the six week mark
    • Braces typically range in price from US$50-150 but you can pick up a cheap (but effective) brace online such as this one on eBay for around US$30
  • Rehab should gradually reintroduce loaded bending after 2 weeks and lateral movements after around 4-6 weeks. This progressively builds back to full loading after 6-8 weeks


  • Taping an MCL to protect it during the recovery and return to sport phases is useless. The skin and tape stretch further than the MCL itself so they are unable to restrain it effectively
  • You can’t return to straight line running until the ligament has sufficiently healed (~4 weeks). Although the MCL primarily restrains sideways movement, it is still under load as the knee bends and straightens
  • Ongoing protection of an MCL, in the form of bracing or taping, is not required after a successful rehab and recovery as the MCL regenerates to almost full capacity
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