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Emily’s Football Focus - Part 3

Part 3: MCL Knee Injuries

Following on from the previous two articles about ACL injuries, this week’s article will focus on MCL injuries of the knee.

Cristiano Ronaldo was famously stretchered off of the pitch in the Euro 2016 Final after sustaining a suspected injury to his MCL.

So, first of all, let’s talk a bit about the MCL itself. The Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) runs along the inner aspect of the knee from the end of the thigh bone (femur) to the top of the shin bone (tibia), and is extremely important for “side-to-side” stability. The MCL can commonly be injured in combination with the ACL.

How does the MCL get injured?

When significant forces are applied to the outside of the knee, the ligament can be stretched (“sprained”) or torn. In football, most MCL injuries occur with a contact mechanism - usually when a player is being tackled or tackling another player themselves. Less commonly, a non-contact twisting motion can cause injury to the MCL, however this usually results in a combined ACL and MCL injury.

How bad can this injury be?

MCL injuries are graded depending on the degree of the sustained tear.

With a Grade 1 tear, players will often have some tenderness on the inside of their knee, but no instability. Grade 2 tears can vary in presentation but often present with more pain than a Grade 1 and will also have some laxity when we test the ligament. Grade 3 is a complete rupture of the ligament, resulting in much more pain, swelling and instability of the injured knee.

How can we tell what grade your injury is?

As a sports therapist, there are a few things that we can do to ensure an accurate working diagnosis of an MCL


1. Taking a detailed history of the injury - when and how the injury occurred along with reported symptoms

2. Comparing with the uninjured knee - this allows us to identify any differences that may indicate an MCL


3. Carrying out special tests for the MCL itself - these are called ligament stress tests and they can help us to

identify if the MCL is not functioning as it should.

Where do we go from here?

The majority of MCL tears are isolated injuries and can be treated without surgery most of the time. Even a complete MCL tear should be able to completely heal without surgery - this is because the MCL has an excellent blood supply and a good blood supply means that more nutrients, protein and oxygen can reach the ligament to enhance healing capabilities. On average, most athletes can return to full competition within 5 to 7 weeks.

Though the severity of these injuries vary, the rehabilitation protocol for each grade generally remains the same with the same goals in mind, just on a different timeline. With the goal to return to full football participation, treatment should focus on early range of motion, reducing swelling, protected weight bearing and progression toward strengthening and stability exercises.


Did you know that we assess, treat and rehabilitate MCL injuries here at SV Sports Therapy? We can provide tailored

treatment and rehabilitation plans for your MCL knee injury - allowing you to get back on the football pitch safely and back to performing at your best!

Get in touch today if this is you!

Give us a call to book in with Emily on 02034944343 or email or you can also book online here.

We would love to serve you!


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