Medial/Lateral Ligament Acute Management [MCL/LCL]

What is a Medial Collateral Ligament Tear?

The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is the ligament that is located on the inner part of the knee joint. It runs from the femur (thighbone) to the top of the tibia (shinbone) and helps in stabilising the knee.

Diagnosis of Medial Collateral Ligament Tears

Your doctor will usually diagnose an MCL injury based on a physical examination of your knee. To determine looseness of the ligament, an MCL test may be performed by exerting pressure on the outside of your knee while your knee is bent to 25 degrees. In addition, other tests such as knee joint X-rays and MRI scan may be done.

Treatment of Medial Collateral Ligament Tears

Treatment options include non-surgical and surgical treatment. Non-surgical treatment consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE protocol); all assist in controlling pain and swelling. A knee brace may be worn to help immobilise your knee. Use of crutches may be recommended to protect your knee and to keep you from putting weight on your knee while walking. Physical therapy exercises may be recommended to improve knee motion and strength.

Most often, surgery is not necessary for the treatment of an MCL tear. If needed, it is usually performed using arthroscopy. In many cases, this injury cannot be prevented. However, using proper techniques during sports or exercising can help prevent injury.

What is a Lateral Collateral Ligament?

Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is a thin set of tissues present on the outer side of the knee, connecting the thighbone (femur) to the fibula (side bone of lower leg). It provides stability as well as limits the sidewise rotation of the knee. Tear or injury of LCL may cause instability of the knee that can be either reconstructed or repaired to regain the strength and movement of the knee.

The knee is the largest joint of the body and is stabilised by a set of ligaments. In the knee, there are four primary ligaments viz. anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament.

Treatment of LCL Injuries

The treatment of the torn LCL includes non-surgical interventions such as rest, ice, elevation, bracing and physical therapy to help reduce swelling, and regain activity as well as strength and flexibility of the knee. Surgery is recommended if non-surgical interventions fail to provide much relief. Surgical interventions include repair and reconstruction of the torn ligament. Based on the severity and location of the injury, repair or reconstruction of the LCL is recommended. In case the ligament is torn from the upper or lower ends of attachment, then repair of the LCL is done with sutures or staples. If the ligament is torn in the middle or if the injury is older than 3 weeks, LCL reconstruction is recommended.

  • Newcastle Private Hospital
  • Australian Orthopaedic Association
  • Royal Australasian College Of Surgeons