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What is an MCL tear?
Although an MCL tear can happen to anyone, athletes are most at risk. It can happen when an athlete suddenly twists or changes direction. It can also happen when something hits the athlete’s knee. Sports like football, basketball, rugby, volleyball, and skiing can result in MCL tears. MCL tears are the most common knee ligament injury.
MCL tears are classified as “partial” or “complete.” In a partial MCL tear, the ligament has torn partway, but some of the ligament’s fibers remain attached. In a complete tear, the ligament has snapped, fully separating into two pieces.
What are the symptoms of an MCL tear?
Symptoms of an MCL tear include:
- Pain and tenderness in the knee
- Stiffness and swelling in the knee
- A feeling of instability, as if your knee might give out
What is a torn MCL treatment and recovery time?
If you suspect you’ve torn or damaged your MCL, the first thing to do is to get it evaluated by an orthopedic specialist. Your provider will conduct a physical exam and may order imaging tests, like an X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI, to confirm the diagnosis.
Surgery is not always required, and in fact, many people recover from a torn MCL with conservative measures. Treatment options for a torn MCL include:
- RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation, is a cornerstone of conservative care for an MCL injury.
- Devices to help immobilize your knee, like a knee brace, and devices to keep your weight off the knee, like crutches. Whether you need to use these depends on how severe your injury is, so talk with your provider for specific recommendations.
- Anti-inflammatory medicines, like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) to help with the swelling and inflammation after the injury.
- Physical therapy — anyone can benefit from physical therapy after a knee injury, including an MCL tear. If you’re an athlete who wants to heal fully after an MCL tear and return to your full strength in your sport, physical therapy is essential. It can make the difference between long-term stiffness or instability and a full return to your former strength, agility, and flexibility.
MCL tear recovery time varies depending on how severe the tear is and whether or not you had surgery to repair the tear:
- Minor MCL tears can heal in one to three weeks.
- More severe MCL tears can take six weeks to heal, and some can take longer.
- If you have MCL surgery, you can expect to need eight to 16 weeks to heal completely.
Your specific recovery time will depend on your unique injury.
The Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Center of Oregon is an award-winning, board-certified orthopedic group located in downtown Portland Oregon. We utilize both surgical and nonsurgical means to treat musculoskeletal trauma, spine diseases, foot and ankle conditions, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumors and congenital disorders.
Our mission is to return our patients back to pain-free mobility and full strength as quickly and painlessly as possible using both surgical and non-surgical orthopedic procedures.
Our expert physicians provide leading-edge, comprehensive care in the diagnosis and treatment of orthopedic conditions, including total joint replacement and sports medicine. We apply the latest state-of-the-art techniques in order to return our patients to their active lifestyle.
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