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Knee Ligament Injury

Sprained MCL Recovery Time

Minute Read


Posted 6 months ago


Last updated: 29/11/2022


by James McCormack

The MCL is the medial collateral ligament, one of the 4 major ligaments of the knee. It attaches the femur bone to the tibia and also has an attachment to the medial meniscus. The MCL has tow distinct parts, deep and superficial (dMCL and sMCL) each with slightly different attachments. The dMCL attaches to the medial meniscus and the medial condyle of the femur and is much shorter than the sMCL. The sMCL attaches from the tibia and attaches to the medial side of the tibia.

Injury to the MCL most often occurs from a valgus force to the knee or a twist, both need to be significant in force and amplitude to injure this strong ligament. Therefore, it is a common sports injury in sports such as football, soccer, rugby, dancing, martial arts and skiing, as twisting and high forces as part of the nature of these sports. You can read more about the anatomy of the MCL, symptoms of a sprained injury and common causes in our related article: MCL Injury.

Diagram of MCL injury

Grading of MCL Injury

A sprained MCL can be diagnosed clinically and with the use of radiological imaging from ultrasound and MRI. The diagnosis can be graded to indicate the severity of the injury, this can be used as a good guide for the expected recovery time. Each individual will have specifics about their health, strength and fitness that will influence their healing time. Additionally, if there are complications along the recovery journey the expected sprained MCL recovery time may be longer. This can include further injury, too much activity and inadequate rest. This is where having sound advice from a physical therapist to guide you through the recovery process is key.

Sprained MCL Recovery Times

On average an MCL will take about 6 weeks to heal and recover. However, based on the severity and grade of the injury it may take more or less time. Below are the expected recovery times for a sprained MCL.

Grade 1 - Mild Ligament Tear

Symptoms of low pain, without swelling or joint instability.

Minimal damage with less than 10% of ligament fibres torn.

Grade 1 Sprained MCL Recovery Time = 1-2 weeks

Grade 2 - Moderate to Severe Ligament Tear

Symptoms of moderate to high pain, swelling and mild, if any joint instability.

Moderate damage with more than 10% of ligament fibres torn.

Grade 2 Sprained MCL Recovery Time = 2-4 weeks

Grade 3 - Complete Tear or Disruption of Function

Symptoms of high pain, swelling and joint instability.

Severe damage with complete or near complete rupture of the ligament.

Grade 3 Sprained MCL Recovery Time = 4-8 weeks depending if surgery is indicated

You can read more about the treatment of MCL sprain in our related article: MCL Injury Treatment.

MCL Sprain with Meniscus Injury

MCL and meniscus injuries frequently occur together. This is due to the anatomy of the dMCL, with its attachment to the meniscus, as well as the similar movements needed to cause injury, valgus or rotation forces. If both injuries present this can increase the sprained MCL recovery time, and rehabilitation will need to be at the pace of the worse, or slower recovering injury.

You can read more about meniscus injuries in our related articles: Medial Meniscus Tear and Lateral Meniscus Tear.

Physiotherapy with James McCormack

This is not medical advice. We recommend a consultation with a medical professional such as James McCormack. He offers Online Physiotherapy Appointments for £45.

Related Articles:
Knee Pain Location Chart
Muscles of the Knee

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