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Collateral ligament (CL) injury - aftercare

Medial collateral ligament injury - aftercare; MCL injury - aftercare; Lateral collateral ligament injury - aftercare; LCL injury - aftercare; Knee injury - collateral ligament


Medial collateral ligament
Knee pain
Medial collateral ligament pain
Medial collateral ligament injury
Torn medial collateral ligament

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A ligament is a band of tissue that connects a bone to another bone. The collateral ligaments of the knee are located on the outside part of your knee joint. They help connect the bones of your upper and lower leg, around your knee joint.

A collateral ligament injury occurs when the ligaments are stretched or torn. A partial tear occurs when only part of the ligament is torn. A complete tear occurs when the entire ligament is torn into two pieces.

More About Your Injury

The collateral ligaments help keep your knee stable. They help keep your leg bones in place and keep your knee from moving too far sideways.

A collateral ligament injury can occur if you get hit very hard on the inside or outside of your knee, or when you have a twisting injury.

Skiers and people who play basketball, football, or soccer are more likely to have this type of injury.

What to Expect

With a collateral ligament injury, you may notice:

After examining your knee, the doctor may order these imaging tests:

If you have a collateral ligament injury, you may need:

Most people do not need surgery for an MCL injury. However, you may need surgery if your LCL is injured or if your injuries are severe and involve other ligaments in your knee.

Self-care at Home

Follow R.I.C.E. to help reduce pain and swelling:

You can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) to reduce pain and swelling. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) helps with pain, but not swelling. You can buy these pain medicines at the store.


You should not put all of your weight on your leg if it hurts. You should check with your doctor about how much weight you should put on your leg. Rest and self-care may be enough to allow the tear to heal. You should use crutches to protect the injured ligament.

You may need to work with a physical therapist (PT) to regain knee and leg strength. The PT will teach you exercises to strengthen the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around your knee.

As your knee heals, you can return to normal activities and maybe play sports again.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if:

If you have surgery, call the doctor if you have:


Lamplot JD, Bogunovic L, Wright RW. Revision anterior cruciate ligament injuries. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee, Drez, & Miller's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 99.

Lento P, Marshall B, Akuthota V. Collateral ligament sprain. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD, Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 66.

Miller RH, Azar FM. Knee injuries. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 45.

Yonz MC, Wilson BF, Blake MH, Johnson DL. Medial collateral ligament and posterior medial corner injuries. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee, Drez, & Miller's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 101.


Review Date: 6/13/2021  

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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