Your knee contains a number of different ligaments which function to hold the joint together. One of these ligaments is known as the MCL, or medial cruciate ligament. At the name suggests, this ligament is located medially, or towards the inside of the joint. Like other ligaments, the MCL is prone to strains and tears, particularly in athletes. But how do you know if you've injured your MCL, and what can be done about this injury? Take a look below.
Signs of an MCL Injury
MCL tears and sprains are injuries that come on suddenly due to a single movement. You'll often know the injury has occurred because you'll hear a loud "pop." You will also feel a popping sensation, followed by an intense pain. The knee will immediately feel tender, especially along the inside of the joint, and you'll notice swelling begin to creep in.
As you try to walk after an MCL injury, you will notice that your knee feels very stiff. You will probably struggle to straighten the joint, and if you do manage to straighten it and take a step, you will feel like your leg is unstable. Some people stand there for minutes, about to take a step, but not able to gain the confidence to do it because their knee feels unstable.
Diagnosing and Treating an MCL Injury
The type of doctor who deals with this sort of injury is called an orthopedic specialist. You may need to first see your primary care physician and get a referral, or you may be able to make an appointment directly with the orthopedic doctor; call your insurance company to ask.
The orthopedic doctor will perform an MRI and perhaps also an ultrasound to determine the extent of your MCL injury. Although some mild sprains can be treated with months of rest and physical therapy, most tears need to be surgically repaired.
Thankfully, MCL surgery has come a long way and is a lot less invasive than it used to be. Your orthopedic surgeon will typically need to make three small incisions. A camera and small surgical tools will be inserted into those incisions and used to repair your torn ligament. You'll be able to return home a few hours after waking up from anesthesia.
Patients who have MCL surgery do need to rest for a few weeks and then follow an intensive physical therapy protocol, but most make a full recovery.
Tearing your MCL is unfortunate, but this is a fixable injury. Don't delay in seeing an orthopedic doctor if you have injured your knee in any way.