STAMFORD, Conn. -- Thanks to America's love affair with professional sports, the terms ACL, MCL and others have become as much a part of sport parlance as home run and touchdown. What do these loft-referenced ligaments do, and more importantly, how are they injured?
There are four main stabilizing ligaments of the knee that connect the thigh bone to the lower leg:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL): located in the center of the knee and prevents the shin from moving too far forward
- Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL): located in the center of the knee and prevents the shin from moving too far backward
- Lateral collateral ligament (LCL): located on the outside of the knee and prevents the knee from moving side-to- side
- Medial collateral ligament (MCL): located on the inside part of the knee and prevents the knee from moving side-to- side
The MCL is a thick, strong ligament that connects the femur to the tibia. The MCL is most commonly injured as a result of contact to the outside part of the knee with the foot planted, such as when an offensive lineman gets “rolled up on” by another player from the side. This puts stress on the stabilizing ligament on the inside of the knee.
MCL injuries vary widely in their severity, ranging from pain sprain or partial tear to complete tear or avulsion. Fortunately, the vast majority of MCL injuries can be effectively treated without surgery, since the MCL has great healing potential.
Signs of an MCL injury may include pain over the inside part of the knee, swelling, bruising, pain with rotation of the lower leg and a sense of looseness. If you suspect an MCL injury, it is important to be evaluated by an orthopedic care provider to determine the most appropriate treatment.
Dr. Samuel Taylor is a sports medicine surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery, specializing in minimally invasive and reconstructive techniques of the shoulder, elbow, and knee. He practices in both the HSS Outpatient Center in Stamford and the hospital’s main campus in New York.