The MCL is a broad, thick band that runs down the inner part of the knee, from the femur (thighbone) to about four to six inches from the top of the tibia (shinbone). The MCL's primary function is to prevent the leg from over-extending inward, but it also is part of the mechanism that stabilizes the knee and allows it to rotate.
Injuries to the MCL commonly occur as a result of a strong force hitting the outside of the knee that causes the MCL – and, possibly, other ligaments on the inside of the knee, such as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) – to stretch or tear.
This can happen while playing sports, for example during a clip block in football, where one player collides with another player from the side. In addition, MCL tears occur in sports where there are a lot of quick stops and turns, such as soccer, basketball and skiing. Slipping on ice, if your lower leg splays out, also can produce the same result. Another cause of injury is repeated stress, where the MCL loses its normal elasticity and becomes limp, like a worn-out rubber band.
Our Approach to MCL Tear
UCSF is committed to helping patients with medial collateral ligament (MCL) tears return to the highest level of activity possible, whether that means a daily walk or reporting for practice with the NFL. Our team includes orthopedic surgeons, primary care physicians trained in sports medicine, physical therapists and athletic trainers. These specialists work together to tailor a treatment plan to each patient's needs and goals.
Most MCL injuries can be healed with physical therapy. We offer the full range of physical rehabilitation treatments, including exercise regimens, functional activities and neuromuscular reeducation, in addition to providing information and instruction. Our specialists guide each patient through a personalized program designed to facilitate healing, recover function and improve physical performance.
Awards & recognition
Best hospital in Northern California
One of the nation’s best in orthopedics
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.