MCL vs ACL which is worse to injure? It’s a question that has plagued sports fans, athletes, and doctors for years. Both ligaments are crucial to the stability of the knee, so it can be hard to determine which one is more important.
In this blog post, we will take a closer look at both these common knee injuries and try to answer the question once and for all.
What is an MCL Injury?
The MCL, or medial collateral ligament, is one of the collateral ligaments and is one of the four major ligaments in the knee. It runs along the inside of the knee joint and helps to stabilize it. Like the ACL, this ligament can also be injured in athletes who participate in contact sports.
An MCL injury usually occurs as a result of a direct blow to the outside of the knee, causing the ligament to tear. This can often happen during a tackle in football or a collision in soccer. MCL injuries are often quite painful and can lead to swelling and bruising and a very mobile joint capsule.
What is an ACL Injury?
The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is one of the four main ligaments in the knee. It connects the femur (thigh bone) to the top of the tibia (shin bone) and helps to stabilize the inner knee joint.
Unfortunately, this ligament is susceptible to injury, particularly in athletes who participate in high-impact sports such as football, basketball, and soccer.
An ACL injury can occur when the knee is hyperextended or when there is a sudden change in direction while the foot is planted or sudden stops. This can cause the ligament to tear or rupture.
ACL injuries are usually quite painful and can often lead to swelling and bruising around the knee joint. In some cases, the knee may even give out when trying to bear weight.
Differences Between MCL and ACL Injuries
While both MCL and ACL injuries can cause knee pain and be debilitating, there are some key differences between the two. The main difference is that MCL injuries are typically less serious than ACL injuries. This is because the MCL has a better blood supply and is, therefore, able to heal more quickly.
Additionally, an MCL tear can be either a partial tear or a complete tear. Anterior cruciate ligament tears are usually complete. This means that, with proper treatment, medial collateral ligament tears will often heal on their own.
An instance when an MCL tear requires surgery is mainly when the torn ligament impedes the ability of the athlete or individual to use their knee joint normally. However, ACL tears will usually require surgical treatment to repair the ligament.
Finally, ACL injuries often occur without any contact, while MCL injuries generally involve some sort of contact (usually a collision). Although there are certainly exceptions to both of these.
MCL Tear Symptoms
There are a few key symptoms that usually accompany an MCL tear. These include:
– Pain on the inside of your knee
– Swelling and bruising around the knee joint
– A feeling of instability in the knee joint
– Difficulty bearing weight on the affected leg
Symptoms of an ACL Tear
ACL tears present differently than MCL tears, but some individuals have similar symptoms. The most common symptoms of an ACL tear are:
– popping sound at the time of injury
– Pain and swelling, “stiffness”
– knee instability
– difficulty bearing weight on the affected leg
If you think you may have injured your MCL or ACL, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible. These injuries can often be debilitating and may require surgery to repair.
How to Treat Each Type of Injury
MCL injuries can often be treated with a combination of rest, ice, and physical therapy. In some cases, surgery may be required to repair the torn ligament. However, most MCL tears will generally heal on their own given enough time.
ACL injuries usually require ACL reconstruction surgery to repair the torn ligament. This is because the ACL does not have a good blood supply and, therefore, does not heal well on its own. That being said, there is a lot of momentum and literature pushing to further investigate the individuals who have not completed surgery.
Following surgery, physical therapy is often required to help the individual regain full range of motion and strength in the knee joint.
Recovery time for each type of injury will vary depending on the severity of the tear and other factors. However, both MCL and ACL injuries can often lead to long-term disability if not treated properly.
Braces and Knee Ligament Injuries
While there is no guarantee that wearing a knee brace will prevent ligament injuries, it may help to reduce the risk. Knee braces work by providing support and stability to the knee joint. This can help to protect the ligaments from being overstretched or torn. Also, athletes who have a torn ACL oftentimes don a knee brace for more confidence in their injured limb.
There are a variety of different knee braces available on the market. Some are designed for specific activities, such as running or basketball. Others are designed to provide more general support and can be worn during various types of daily activities.
If you think you may be at risk for a knee ligament injury, talk to your doctor about whether wearing a knee brace is right for you.
MCL vs ACL Which is Worse to Injure
So, which is worse to injure MCL or ACL? In general, ACL injuries are more serious than MCL injuries. This is because the ACL has a poorer blood supply and does not heal as well on its own.
Additionally, the ACL rehabilitation time is much longer than the MCLs, often taking upwards of six months to over a year.
Due to the length of time that ACL patients are spending rehabbing their affected limb, they oftentimes miss out on activities that provide them a lot of meaning, self-identity, and confidence.
Knee Ligament Injuries and Mental Health
Both MCL and ACL injuries can have a significant impact on an individual’s mental health. The stress of the injury, surgery, and rehabilitation process can often lead to anxiety and depression. It’s important to be aware of these potential mental health concerns and seek help if necessary.
As with all mental health concerns it is always recommended to be proactive rather than reactive. This means that addressing any concerns before they grow into bigger problems is necessary and the best practice.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a knee ligament injury, please reach out for help. There are many resources available to assist you in this difficult time. Some applicable resources would be:
– Your local doctor or orthopedic surgeon or orthopedic specialist
– Your local library (for books on ACL or MCL injuries)
– A physical therapist or ACL specialist
– A mental health professional
– Support groups for knee injury patients
Recovery Time For MCL and ACL Injuries
The recovery time for MCL and ACL injuries can vary depending on the severity of the injury and other factors. Generally, the most successful recoveries from ACL injuries take 12+ months, while the recovery process of a typical MCL injury will take 6-8 weeks.
In conclusion, both MCL and ACL injuries can have a significant impact on an individual’s physical and mental health. The stress of the injury, surgery, and rehabilitation process can often lead to anxiety and depression. It’s important to be aware of these potential mental health concerns and seek help if necessary.
The physical challenges associated with each type of injury can also be significant, with ACL injuries generally requiring a longer period of rehabilitation. However, with proper treatment and care, most individuals will make a full recovery from either type of knee ligament injury.