5 ways to prevent MCL injuries and tears

Feb 24, 2022

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The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is on the inner part of the knee. It prevents your knee from bending inwards. An injury of the MCL can cause enough pain and instability in your knee to prevent you from doing everyday life activities.

A torn knee ligament can destabilize the knee and prevent you from doing things that involve twisting or turning your knee. Twisting or turning motions on a torn MCL can cause the knee to buckle or “give way.”

Ligament injury, such as MCL sprain, occurs when the ligament stretches or tears. Trauma to one side of the knee can injure ligaments on other sides of the knee. MCL injury is often the result of a direct blow to the outside of the knee, for example, when the trauma pushes the bones of the knee with enough force to tear or stretch the MCL ligament on the inside of the knee.


You are most likely to hurt your MCL while engaging in activities that involve twisting, bending or quick change in direction. MCL injuries are also common in skiing and other sports that require jumping, weaving and stop-and-go movements. MCL injuries can also occur when something hits the outside of the knee. These types of knee injuries are common during contact sports, such as football or soccer.

There are 3 grades of MCL injury:

  •   Grade 1: The MCL is stretched but not torn
  •   Grade 2: The MCL is partially torn, causing some instability of the knee
  •   Grade 3: The MCL is completely torn

Symptoms of an MCL injury can include pain on the inside of the knee, swelling, and difficulty straightening the knee. In severe cases, there may also be leg pain or numbness due to nerve involvement.

What You can do to Protect your MCL

1. Strengthen your quadricep muscles

Activities like running, jumping and climbing stairs put even more stress on the MCL. Strong quadricep muscles absorb some of this force to protect this ligament.

2. Strengthen your hamstrings 

Hamstrings are those muscles on the backs of your thighs that connect the lower part of your pelvis to your knees. Your hamstrings help you extend your leg straight back and bend your knee. These muscles also work in coordination with the quadricep muscles to stabilize your knees during exercise. Strong hamstrings also strengthen your hips, and strong hips can prevent your knees from “caving in” during high-stress knee bending activities.

3. Keep your joints mobile

Stiffness begets stiffness. Stay active to keep your MCL supple and strong.

4. Move your feet

Pick up your feet and point your toes in the direction you want your body to go rather than twisting at your knees. Improve your running and jumping techniques to put your feet in better alignment with your hips.

5. Wear a protective knee brace during activity

A protective brace provides additional stability and support to your MCL.


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