Your medial collateral ligament, or MCL in common shorthand, is a ligament located in your knee. The MCL is a common injury site for athletes, particularly those involved in contact sports. An MCL injury can be mild or severe. Treatment options vary, and you should take precautions -- and follow your doctor's instructions -- as the injury heals.
Your medial collateral ligament is one of four main ligaments in your knee, and helps give the knee its stability, the TeensHealth website explains. The MCL connects the knee to your femur, or thigh bone, and your tibia, or shin bone, and is located on the inside of your knee.
An injury to your MCL can consist of a strain or sprain, a partial tear of the ligament or a complete tear. The injury is caused when your knee is forced inward in an unnatural motion. This creates too much tension on the rope-like MCL, and it stretches or tears, TeensHealth reports. Sports like football, soccer and hockey, where contact in the knee area is common, are most likely to cause such an injury.
A general guideline for walking after an MCL injury is to use crutches until you are able to walk comfortably without a limp. Your doctor will advise you on his specific recommendations. You may need a knee brace for the first several weeks to add support and stability to your knee joint, the University of Kentucky HealthCare system notes.
An injury to your MCL may heal itself within one to six weeks, but you will likely need at least some physical therapy to restore range of motion and regain strength in your knee, Massachusetts General Hospital advises. Anti-inflammatory medication and ice are a good preliminary treatment to reduce swelling and pain. A serious tear of the ligament may require surgery.
Some athletes and others who have suffered a torn MCL report hearing a "pop" as the injury occurred. When performing rehabilitation exercises, or in the early stages of putting weight on the leg again, stop if you feel any pain and go slowly to avoid re-injuring the ligament.