Medial Collateral Ligament Sprain

Category: Education

What is a Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Sprain?

Medial knee injuries.
The MCL is the most commonly injured ligament in the knee. It is a tough band of tissue that runs along the inside of your knee, attaching the two large bones in your leg at the inner part of your knee. The MCL mainly resists forces that would otherwise cause your knee joint to move inward. When this ligament is injured, it is common to experience a popping sound, pain, or swelling around the knee. Proper care and management will be important for reducing your pain and making sure your knee is able to recover optimally.

Why does it happen?

Both athletic and non-athletic populations can suffer an MCL sprain. In general, MCL injuries happen when the knee is suddenly forced inwards, overloading the MCL and causing damage. This can happen due to a direct impact to the outside of your knee, such as getting tackled in a game of soccer or football. This can also happen if you need to suddenly change direction, which can cause your knee to be forced inwards. An example would be if you lose your balance and are forced to catch yourself awkwardly. The aim of treatment will be to control the pain, resolve the inflammation, and then to maximize the healing window ensuring your knee recovers as fully as possible. You will also work on strengthening the leg muscles responsible for keeping your knee stable, such as your quadriceps and hamstrings.

The role of Physiotherapy

The MCL is not an isolated structure, and so various tissues around yourPhysiotherapist injury site may also be irritated. Your Physiotherapist will therefore perform a thorough assessment and work with you to find the most effective treatment strategy. Some approaches for treating an MCL sprain are:

  • Education for self-management
  • Range of movement and strengthening exercises
  • Manual therapies such as joint mobilization
  • Modalities such as Ultrasound and Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES)
  • Taping or braces

Often a combination of techniques will be performed to allow your knee to heal as effectively as possible. Your physiotherapist can work with you on your gradual return to the sports and activities you enjoy.


Kim, C., Chasse, P. M., & Taylor, D. C. (2016). Return to Play After Medial Collateral Ligament Injury. Clinics in Sports Medicine, 35(4), 679–696.

Miyamoto, R. G., Bosco, J. A., & Sherman, O. H. (2009). Treatment of Medial Collateral Ligament Injuries. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 17(3), 152–161.