If you’re a sports fan, you’ve probably heard of MCL and LCL injuries. But what do these acronyms stand for? And more importantly, what’s the difference between them?
In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between MCL vs LCL injuries. We will also provide tips on how to prevent these injuries from happening.
The Knee Joint
To distinguish between the MCL and LCL you truly need to look at the overall structure of the knee joint. The knee joint is a hinge joint meaning that it can flex and extend, but cannot rotate.
This joint has 4 major ligaments broken into two categories, the cruciate ligaments, and the collateral ligaments. The collateral ligaments are located on the sides of the joint and include MCL (medial collateral ligament) and LCL (lateral collateral ligament).
The MCL is located on the inside of the knee, while the LCL is located on the outside of the knee.
The other main ligaments of the knee joint (as previously noted) are the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and PCL (posterior cruciate ligament). Both of these ligaments make a cross on the inside of your knee and are crucial for the general stability of the knee joint.
Bones also make up the knee joint. The 3 main bones of the knee are the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone), and patella (knee cap).
The femur is the largest bone in the human body and makes up the upper half of the hinge joint.
The tibia is smaller than the femur but the thickest of the lower leg bones.
Finally, there’s the patella, which rests just below your quadriceps tendon at the front of your knee, protecting the joint, and assisting in the extension of your knee joint.
Collateral Ligament Injuries (MCL vs LCL)
Knee ligament injuries overall are very common in sports activities. Below is a list of some of the most common collateral ligament knee injuries:
-MCL injury: MCL injuries are the most common type of knee ligament injury, accounting for about 29% of all knee ligament injuries. MCL injuries can occur from direct impact to the side of your knee (such as when you’re tackled while playing football), or they can happen as a result of an awkward twisting motion.
Knee ligament injuries have varying gradations of severity. These include MCL sprains and MCL tears.
An MCL sprain is the mildest type of MCL injury. They typically result from a minor impact or force that stretches the ligament beyond its normal range of motion.
An MCL tear can be caused by either a more severe impact on your knee joint or a violent twisting motion of your knee. MCL tears are graded on a scale from 1-3, with 3 being the most severe.
-LCL injury: LCL injuries (like an LCL sprain or LCL tear) aren’t as common, accounting for only about 8% of all knee ligament injuries. Like MCL injuries, LCL tears can also result from a direct impact on the inside of your leg or twisting motions.
LCL sprains and tears have similar severity ratings as MCL injuries.
Cruciate Ligament Injuries
The MCL and LCL are not the only important ligaments of the knee joint. There are two cruciate ligaments, which play an equally critical role in knee stability. Below is a list of some of the most common cruciate ligament knee injuries:
-ACL injury: ACL injuries are the most common type of cruciate ligament injury, accounting for about 50% (or more) of all knee ligament injuries. These types of injuries typically occur from sudden stops or changes in direction that cause your knee to buckle inward.
An ACL tear and sprain are graded on a scale from 1-3, with 3 being the most severe.
-PCL injury: PCL injuries are less common than MCL or ACL injuries, accounting for about 2.5% of all knee ligament injuries. They can be caused by athletic injuries or car accidents.
Like MCL or ACL tears, PCL injuries can occur in varying degrees of severity. A minor PCL injury may just be a sprain, while a severe tear will require surgery to repair the ligament.
No matter what kind of knee injury you have it is very important that you seek medical attention to help you recover from your injury and get back to doing the activities that you love. There are a number of treatment options available depending on the severity of your MCL or LCL injury.
Treatment Options for MCL and LCL Injuries
Below are some of the most common treatment options for MCL and LCL injuries:
-Rest: In the first few days following MCL or LCL injury, it is typically recommended that you rest your knee as much as possible in order to allow the ligament time to heal, or the swelling to go down for adequate diagnosis. This means avoiding activities that strenuously put pressure on your knees, like running and jumping.
-Physical therapy: Depending on the severity of your MCL or LCL injury, you may also benefit from physical therapy to help you strengthen and restore mobility in your knee joint. A physical therapist is trained in exercises and stretches that can help you recover more quickly from MCL or LCL injuries.
-Bracing: In some cases, MCL or LCL injuries may require the use of a knee brace to provide support and protection to your injured ligament while it heals. Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend an appropriate brace based on your specific situation.
-Medications: Your doctor may also prescribe medications to help reduce inflammation and manage any knee pain associated with MCL or LCL injuries. These can include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or oral pain medications to help you manage your symptoms.
-Surgery: In some cases, MCL or LCL injuries may require surgery by an orthopedic surgeon in order to repair the damaged ligaments. MCL tears many times do not require surgery because of the adequate blood supply the ligament has.
MCL injuries may require surgery if part of a bone (which came loose due to the tear) impedes the movement of the joint.
The LCL, on the other hand, doesn’t heal on its own quite as readily and oftentimes requires surgery.
If you suspect that you may have MCL or LCL injuries, it is important to speak with a doctor as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. With the right care, you can recover from MCL or LCL injuries and return back to the activities or sports you love!
How Do Doctors Diagnose MCL and LCL Injuries?
When a patient comes in with symptoms of MCL or LCL injuries, the doctor will typically start by taking a thorough medical history and performing a physical examination to assess the extent of the injury.
The doctor may also order imaging tests like an X-ray or MRI scan to help them get a better look at the ligaments and any damage that may have occurred.
Based on the results of these tests, your doctor will be able to determine an appropriate treatment plan to help you recover from MCL or LCL injuries and get back to living your best life.
Manage Your Injury
While MCL and LCL injuries can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort, it is important to remember that there are a number of treatment options available to help you manage your symptoms and recover.
So if you suspect that you may have MCL or LCL injuries, be sure to speak with a doctor as soon as possible so that you can start on the path to recovery. With the right care, you can get back to the activities and sports you love in no time!