Non-operative Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Injury Treatment

Treatment of a MCL injury rarely requires surgical intervention. Almost always, some simple treatment steps, along with rehabilitation, will allow patients to resume their previous level of activity. The time before an athlete is able to return to their sport corresponds to the grade of the injury.


Grade I tears of the MCL usually resolve within a few weeks. Treatment consists of:

  • Resting from activity
  • Icing the Injury
  • Anti-inflammatory medications

Most patients with a grade I MCL tear will be able to return to sports within one to two weeks following their injury.

When a grade II MCL tear occurs, use of a hinged knee brace is common in early in early treatment. Athletes with a grade II injury can return to activity once they are not having pain over the MCL. Patients with a grade II injury often return to sports within three to four weeks after their injury.

When a grade III tear occurs, patients usually wear a knee immobilizer and protect weight bearing (crutches) for the first week to 10 days following injury. Patients should remove the immobilizer several times a day to work on bending their knee. After that time, the patient can begin wearing a hinged knee brace, and can begin to increase their range of motion in the knee. They can apply more weight to the knee as pain allows. Once the patient can flex the knee at least to 100 degrees, they may begin riding a stationary bicycle. The crutches can be discontinued once the patient is able to walk without limping. Jogging can begin once the patient has regained 60% of their quadricep strength (compared to the opposite side), and agility drills can begin once they have regained 80% of their strength. Complete rehab from a grade III MCL tear can take three to four months.

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