MCL Tears 101


Did you just feel a pop around your knee while playing your favorite sport? Is the pain on the inside of the knee? If so, it is important to rule out the possibility of an MCL tear. This ligament keeps the knee from buckling, and is critical in sports function. While some severe tears may require surgery, most tears can be healed by rest, ice, and strengthening the muscles of the thighs and hips.

The Facts

The MCL, or medial collateral ligament, is a fibrous soft tissue that connects your thighbone (femur) to your shinbone (tibia) on the inside of your knee. It provides dynamic stability, meaning it keeps your knee from buckling inward.

The Symptoms

MCL tears usually occur as a result of trauma. The pain is experienced on the inside of the knee. It does not usually radiate away, instead staying right around the area. After the injury, the knee may swell significantly or slightly on the site of the pain. Additional pain will usually occur from running, squatting, or going down the stairs.

What Is Happening

The most common mechanism of injury for an MCL tear is valgus stress, meaning a force that hits you on the outside of your knee, causing it to buckle inward. Other ways of injuring this structure are landing improperly and having your knee buckle, or going into a deep knee bend while being weighed down.

Why Is This Happening

MCL tears are a result of a traumatic force exceeding your body’s ability to withstand it. Oftentimes, having weakness in the hips and quads can cause you to be in poor position when you land, thereby causing too much stress on the inside of your knee. Fatigue can also cause this phenomenon.

Lifestyle Adjustments
  1. Stay in shape. Make sure you have a good level of overall fitness and conditioning before playing sports. Many MCL tears occur in “weekend warrior” athletes. Weekend warrior athletes are not necessarily in top shape and do not work out consistently, but play sports on weekends. When you become fatigued, your form and technique can begin to break down. By staying in shape during the week through a combination of resistance training and cardio, you’ll have the strength and endurance to avoid injury on weekends.
  2. Stay slim! It is hypothesized that each pound of body weight over what is considered your ideal body weight yields four extra pounds of force on the knee joint; that is four extra pounds of stress. This extra stress results in a potential loss of mobility and knee strength that can ultimately lead to injury.
  3. Strengthen your legs outside the gym. When standing, keep feet and knees pointed forward. Imagine a dot on the side of the big toe, inner ankle bone, inner knee and lesser trochanter: align those dots and push down through the base of the big toe to align and strengthen the inner leg line. Now, imagine a dot on the side of the pinky toe, outer ankle bone, outer knee and greater trochanter: align those dots and push down through the base of the pinky toe to align and strengthen the outer leg line. By aligning and strengthening your inner and outer leg lines, you strengthen the muscles that help support the knee.
Prevent It
  1. Ground your feet. With any knee injuries, there may be a tendency to favor the inside edge of your foot, so the inner edge of the sole bears the body’s weight (pronate); or the outside edge of your foot, so the outer edge of the sole bears the body’s weight (supinate). Take time to evaluate your feet, and equalize your weight on the bases of your toes so the weight from the base of your big toe to the base of your pinky toe is equalized. Then, maintaining the equalization of weight on the bases of your toes, equalize the weight on the right side of the heel and the left side of the heel. Notice how your body weight is fully supported by your grounded feet.
  2. Pay attention to your alignment. Imagine a straight line from the middle of your knee, down the middle of your shin, and ending right between your second and third toes. Try to maintain this alignment while seated in a chair, while bending to pick up items off the floor, and while standing and talking to a friend. Being aware of alignment in everyday life strengthens the muscles to appropriately support your body, especially when playing sports or being active. Avoid injury by keeping your knees in correct alignment.
  3. Listen to your body. Fatigue results in poor technique. If your body feels fatigued, rather than push yourself to keep moving and risk injury, bring your workout to a close and end with stretching.
Fix It

Follow the exercises below.


Straight leg raises


  1. Lie on your back with legs outstretched.
  2. Bend your unimpaired knee and ground the foot into the mat.
  3. Lift the straight leg until it aligns with the bent knee.
  4. Perform three sets of twenty-five repetitions with each leg.


Side lying leg raises

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  1. Lie on your side with your bottom knee bent and your head resting in your hand.
  2. Inhale; lift the top leg. Exhale; lower the top leg.
  3. Perform three sets of twenty-five repetitions with each leg.


Single leg bridges

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  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet grounded.
  2. Lightly pull the injured leg in toward the chest to lift off the ground. Push down through the foot on the floor.
  3. Lift seat off the ground. Hold for three counts and return to the start position.
  4. Perform three sets of fifteen repetitions on both sides.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Yoffie Life disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.