Injury Spotlight: MCL Sprain


What it means to Sprain your MCL
Knee injuries are quite common in all athletics especially medial collateral ligament (MCL) knee sprains. The most common sports that you will see MCL injuries include: wrestling, hockey, judo, and rugby.

  • A medial collateral ligament (MCL) knee sprain is a prevalent injury in sporting populations.
  • Male athletes are at a greater risk than female athletes.
  • Intercollegiate athletes are at a greater risk than intramural athletes.
  • MCL injures are the second most common injuries resulting in player lost time in elite-level ice hockey.

MCL sprains generally occurs acutely with a direct blow to the outside of the knee (valgus force), and my also be injured through a planting and twisting motion causing a torque force to the knee.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Grade 1 tear: a small number of fibers are torn resulting in some pain but allowing full function
  • Grade 2 tear: a significant number of fibers are torn with moderate loss of function.
  • Grade 3 tear: all fibers are ruptured resulting in knee instability and major loss of function. Other structures may also be injured such as the menisci or cruciate ligaments.


Early conservative treatment involves: RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Rehabilitation modalities include: electrical stimulation and ultrasound may help with the healing as well as a rehabilitation program set by the athletes PT, ATC, and Orthopedic Physician.

Luckily, most MCL injuries do not require surgical repair due to the rich blood supply to the ligament. Recovery, however, can range from a couple of weeks to a couple of months and very rarely is surgery required. Most of the time recovery after an MCL injury will allow the athlete to return to all activities without any long lasting effects.


Jessica Thomas MS, ATC, CHC
Grant, G.A. et al. Incidence and Injury Characteristics of Medial Collateral Ligament Injuries in Male Collegiate Ice Hockey Players. 2013

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