Does a Torn MCL Hurt to Touch?

Reviewed on 4/22/2021

A torn MCL (medial collateral ligament or tibial collateral ligament) may be painful to the touch. Symptoms of a torn MCL include pain on the inside of the knee, tenderness in the inner knee area, inside area of the knee may hurt to touch, swelling over the injured area, ruising around the knee, knee instability, feeling as if the knee may give out, knee stiffness, difficulty bending and straightening the injured leg, a popping sound when the injury occurs, pain when bearing weight, feeling of looseness in the inner knee, and pain in other parts of the knee.
A torn MCL (medial collateral ligament or tibial collateral ligament) may be painful to the touch. Symptoms of a torn MCL include pain on the inside of the knee, tenderness in the inner knee area, inside area of the knee may hurt to touch, swelling over the injured area, ruising around the knee, knee instability, feeling as if the knee may give out, knee stiffness, difficulty bending and straightening the injured leg, a popping sound when the injury occurs, pain when bearing weight, feeling of looseness in the inner knee, and pain in other parts of the knee.

MCL stands for medial collateral ligament (also called the tibial collateral ligament), which is located on the medial aspect (or “inside”) of the knee, connecting the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). 

A torn MCL may hurt to touch. Symptoms of a torn MCL may include: 

  • Pain on the inside of the knee
  • Tenderness in the inner knee area
  • Inside area of the knee may hurt to touch
  • Swelling over the injured area
  • Bruising around the knee
  • Knee instability, feeling as if the knee may give out
  • Knee stiffness, difficulty bending and straightening the injured leg
  • A popping sound when the injury occurs
  • Pain when bearing weight 
  • Feeling of looseness in the inner knee or as if the knee has a greater range of motion
  • Pain in other parts of the knee 
    • Often, when the MCL is injured, other parts of the knee may be injured as well

What Causes a Torn MCL?

Tears to the MCL (medial collateral ligament) are commonly caused by:

  • Contact and collision sports such as football or hockey
  • Sports requiring substantial twisting and torque of lower extremities, such as basketball, soccer, tennis, and skiing
  • A direct blow to the outside (lateral aspect) of the knee or via an indirect stress through rotation of the lower leg or pulling of the lower leg away from the midline of the body (usually causes more severe injury)
  • Indirect injury, such as a shoe catching on a playing surface (e.g., cleat catching on turf, a sneaker adhering to a court surface), an athlete catching a tip or the inside edge of a ski or skate while trying to change direction quickly 

How Is a Torn MCL Diagnosed?

In addition to a patient history and physical examination of the knee, tests used to diagnose a torn MCL include: 

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What Is the Treatment for a Torn MCL?

Treatment for a torn MCL (medial collateral ligament) includes: 

  • RICE method
    • Rest: keep weight off the knee
    • Ice: to decrease pain, swelling, and redness
      • If an injury is iced immediately, it may prevent some inflammation
      • Use an ice pack or ice wrapped in a towel
      • Apply crushed ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, several times daily
    • Compression: to support the knee and prevent inflammation
      • Use elastic wraps such as Ace bandages
      • Do not wrap too tightly
    • Elevation: propped up the affected leg to help reduce fluid buildup in the injured tissue
      • Try to raise the knee above the level of the heart
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers 
  • Knee brace to protect the injured knee 
  • Crutches to help keep weight off the leg
  • Physical therapy to help restore function to the knee and strengthen the supporting leg muscles 
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections (evidence of their effectiveness is limited and conflicting)
  • Surgery
    • Most MCL injuries do not require surgery, but if the MCL is torn in a way in which cannot heal or it is associated with other ligament injuries, surgery may be needed

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Reviewed on 4/22/2021
References
https://www.uptodate.com/contents/medial-collateral-ligament-injury-of-the-knee?search=Torn%20MCL&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/collateral-ligament-injuries/