Yasmin Dhar, M.D.
Orthopedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist
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What are the collateral ligaments?
The knee has two collateral ligaments that are found on either the inside or outside of the knee joint. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is on the inside of the knee, and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is on the outside of the knee. The MCL and LCL prevent excessive side-to-side motion in the knee.
How do you injury your collateral ligament?
Ligaments usually stretch or tear during recreational activities. A fall or twisting your knee during running on uneven terrain or being struck on the outside of your knee are two more common ways the stretch or tear your MCL or LCL. There are three grades of injury, Grade I (mild), Grade II (moderate) and Grade III (severe). Mild sprains have less pain and swelling than severe ones.
How do you treat MCL or LCL sprains?
Treatment usually consists of R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), with sometimes immobilization in a brace for 2-3 weeks. Even more severe injuries will generally heal on their own after a longer period of immobilization and brace protection before return to sporting activities. Rarely these injuries, if ever, require surgery for repair of the ligament. The more severe injuries that can require surgery generally occur with injuries to other ligaments or structures in the knee. Rehabilitation of the muscles following a period of immobilization is important in preventing recurrence and returning to biking, running and other recreational activities.