Signs of a Torn MCL So You Know to See a Doctor

Your MCL, which is short for medial collateral ligament, is one of the four major ligaments in your knee. The thick membranous band is located on the inside of your knee joint, attaching at your femur and tibia. The MCL prevents forces that cause your knee to collapse inward.

The MCL is commonly sprained or torn during athletic activities, when there is a valgus stress, or a blow from the outside of your knee. Football and basketball players are susceptible to MCL tears. You can take steps to determine whether it's likely you've torn your MCL, but an MRI is needed for a true diagnosis.


A doctor will likely order an MRI to confirm your ligament tear.

MCL Knee Injuries

Your mechanism of knee injury can give a clue to whether or not you injured your MCL. Most MCL tears are caused by a blow to the outside of your knee, which causes your knee joint to collapse toward the center of your body, placing stress on your MCL that causes it to rupture.

Torn MCL Symptoms

According to Virtual Sports Injury Clinic, a torn MCL is usually associated with significant knee swelling, a locking or catching as you extend and flex your knee joint, pain or tenderness to the touch at the inside of your knee — and your knee may give way when you're walking.

Try Home Remedies

Decrease pain and swelling to allow more accurate diagnosis testing. If your knee is too swollen, you will be unable to determine whether your MCL is injured. Decrease swelling by applying ice, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (if approved by your doctor) and elevating your knee above your heart.

MCL Tear Test

Your doctor will likely perform an MCL tear test called the valgus stress test of your knee. You will sit on a table with both legs extended, the leg of your injured knee slightly hanging off one side. The doctor will rest her hip against your knee, then place her closest hand on the inside of your knee to keep it steady against her hip.

She will then reach across and place her other hand on the inside of your ankle, pulling your ankle toward her. If your knee joint feels flimsy and has excessive laxity or is allowed to open further than normal, the MCL is torn or if you have an MCL sprain.

See a Doctor

Visit a medical professional to receive a true diagnosis. According to Virtual Sports Injury Clinic, surgery is not typically needed for an MCL tear, but MCL tears are frequently associated with simultaneous damage to your anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, and it's important you receive the treatment needed for full recovery.

Recovery and Considerations

MCL healing times differ based on the extent of injury. A mild MCL sprain often heals within 3 to 6 weeks, while more serious injury can take 8 to 12 weeks.


While you’re waiting to determine the extent of your injury, avoid additional stress by wearing a knee brace for support. If the pain is significant, a medical professional may suggest that you use crutches.

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