Medial Collateral Ligament Injury - Its Grades and Recovery Rates

Monday, November 30, 2015

What's an MCL tear?

A MCL injury is a torn ligament in the knee and a common sporting injury. The damage ranges from a small tear to a completely torn ligament with severe pain and disability. Physiotherapists categorise MCL damage in three grades as follows:

Grade 1 Tear - A few fibres are torn causing slight pain but no loss of knee function
Grade 2 Tear - Sufficient fibres are torn to cause pain and moderate loss of function
Grade 3 Tear – All of the fibres are ruptured causing severe pain, instability and complete loss of function. The meniscus or cruciate ligaments may also be injured.


Most cases of medial collateral ligament injury heal well with physiotherapy and by avoiding any activity that increases pain. The success of treatment hinges on following the physio's advice and doing the prescribed exercises carefully. Grades 1 & 2 need between two and eight weeks, but Grade 3 needs longer and depends on the extent of the knee damage.


First-aid treatment immediately after you notice a little pain is very important, so rest and ice-packs as soon as possible. If your knee is swollen and painful, take anti-inflammatory medication immediately, as this will speed up the healing process.

Do not put any weight on your knee as this can easily cause further damage and slow down the healing process.   If you try to ignore the pain and carry on using the damaged knee you could end up with a chronic, long-term condition. Believe me, this no time to play the brave hero!

Physiotherapy for an MCL tear

Physiotherapy for this condition is vital to speed up the healing process, ensure you regain full knee strength and function and avoid future recurrence.  Physiotherapy can include these treatments:

  • Soft tissue massage
  • Joint mobilization
  • Taping
  • Bracing
  • Heat treatment
  • Ultrasound
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Exercises to improve flexibility, strength and balance
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Education
  • Activity modification advice 
  • Biomechanical correction shoes
  • A gradual return to activity program

A key component of rehabilitation is an individually designed exercise program to strengthen the quadricep, hamstring, adductor and gluteus muscles.  This is necessary to improve control of the knee joint during weight-bearing activities.

And remember – only a highly-trained physiotherapist can advise which exercises are right for you – not your mates at the gym!

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