Which Athletes Are Most Susceptible to MCL Injuries?

Which Athletes Are Most Susceptible to MCL Injuries?

The knee is one of the strongest and largest joints in the body. Due to the complex structure of the knee joint, this area is susceptible to several kinds of injuries – especially sports injuries. At New York Sports Medicine Institute, we help patients manage various knee injuries and help get them back to peak performance. Continue reading to learn more about MCL injuries. 

What Are MCL Injuries?

The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is one of the most frequently injured ligaments in the knee. It is located on the inside of the knee and is one of the four main ligaments connecting the femur to the tibia. The MCL has two parts; a superficial and deep portion. The superficial region attaches to the shin bone below the knee joint, and the deep part attaches below the knee joint and is connected to the meniscus. The MCL’s primary function is to minimize side-to-side movement and provides stability by protecting the knee from over-extending inward. Injuries to the MCL can also produce a wide range of symptoms, making them more challenging to diagnose. Some of the symptoms of MCL injuries can also include:

  • A popping sound at the onset of the injury. 
  • Sharp pain from the inner part of the knee. 
  • Tenderness around the knee.
  • Knee instability. 
  • Swelling at the inner knee. 
  • Stiffness.
  • Pain when bearing weight. 

Causes of MCL Injuries

Injuries to the MCL are often seen in both contact and non-contact sports and can occur in the following situations:

  • Lifting heavy objects or squatting. 
  • Awkward landings on the knee. 
  • Hyperextending the knee. 
  • Repeated stress to the knee. 
  • When the knee is hit directly on the outside, like from a tackle. 
  • As a result of quick cutting maneuvers. 

While the MCL is most commonly injured during sports, a direct blow like a car accident can damage the ligament. 

Who Is More Susceptible To MCL Injuries?

While an MCL injury can happen to anyone, certain factors can put individuals at a higher risk. Those who have previously injured or torn their MCL have an increased chance of reoccurrence. Athletes that participate in the following sports – especially at a collegiate or professional level – are at high risk due to the intensity of play:

  • Soccer.
  • Football.
  • Basketball.
  • Hockey.

Treating MCL Injuries

There is a wide range of treatment options available for treating MCL injuries. In most cases, people recover over time using nonsurgical treatments. In severe tears in elite athletes or people with multiple ligament injuries, surgery may be necessary. Some of the nonsurgical treatments for MCL injuries include the RICE method; rest, ice, compression, and elevation. In addition to the RICE method, our team may advise a patient to take anti-inflammatory medication. 

A knee brace restricts side-to-side movement but allows forward, and backward movements and that can also be beneficial. Exercise can also effectively restore range of motion and increase strength. Working with an experienced physical therapist can help you find practical and safe exercises to treat your injury. 


As previously mentioned, surgery for this injury is relatively uncommon and is only recommended for elite athletes, people with multiple ligament injuries, and those who have persistent knee instability. If surgery is required, an orthopedic surgeon will either reattach the torn portion of the ligament or reconstruct the ligament using a graft. MCL grafts can be constructed from tissue elsewhere on the patient, such as the hamstring tendons. 

Post-operative recovery time will depend on the nature of the surgery, severity, and overall health. After a surgical procedure, recovery will often involve a comprehensive physical therapy regimen to improve knee functionality. 

Contact NYSMI

At New York Sports Medicine Institute, you can trust that you are in skilled hands. We provide a number of specialized treatments to help patients overcome their MCL injuries and get back to playing at their best. Contact our office today to learn more!