ACL or MCL Injury?
Symptoms of an ACL injury differ from an MCL injury by:
1.) How the injury occurred.
2.) Location of the pain.
First, recognize ‘how‘ you injured your knee.
- An ACL injury typically occurs with a sudden stop or turn or twist of the knee. ACL injuries are common in start-and-stop sports such as soccer, football, basketball, and skiing.
- An MCL injury, in contrast, most often occurs with a hit to the outside of the knee. The impact causes the knee to buckle inward and strains the ligament.
Next, ‘where‘ you feel pain can be evidence of either an ACL or MCL injury. Both ligaments are on the front of the knee however, your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sits more towards the middle of your knee. So, you may feel a sharp pain ‘in‘ or ‘below‘ your knee cap. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) runs along the inner side of your leg thus, you will experience pain on the ‘inside‘ of your knee.
With both an ACL or MCL injury, you may hear or feel a ‘popping’ sensation, though ACL injuries traditionally having a more obvious ‘pop’ than MCL injuries.
Also, know that it is possible to injure your MCL and ACL at the same time. In that case, you could experience most or all the above symptoms.
MCL Injury Symptoms
Symptoms of a less severe MCL sprain or tear may include:
- Tenderness, aching
Symptoms of a more severe MCL tear may include:
- Significant to unbearable pain
- Instability or looseness of the joint
- Excessive swelling
- Excessive Bruising
- Reduced range of motion
Recovery time depends upon the severity of your MCL injury and whether you have surgery or not:
MCL Injury Recovery (No Surgery)
A mild to moderate MCL injury heals in a few days to several weeks. This is without surgery but is recommended to include rest, self-care such as ice and elevation, bracing or wrapping the knee, and physical therapy.
MCL Injury Recovery (With Surgery)
The sports medicine orthopedic physicians at Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Group believe in exhausting all conservative treatment options prior to discussing surgery. Some of the non-surgical options include physical therapy, cortisone injections, viscosupplementation, or PRP therapy.
If surgery is deemed necessary, then recovery could take four to six weeks after surgery to heal. At that time, you should be able to return to the majority of your normal activities as designated by your physician. However, it may take 6 to 12 months for the injury to heal to full health and integrity. We recommend that you follow your physician’s post-operative recovery and therapy protocols attentively. Once the MCL has fully healed, most experience successful long-term results including a full return to sports.