MCL Tears – Houston, Beaumont, Cypress
MCL refers to the medial collateral ligament that runs along the inner region of the knee, connecting the bones in your thigh to your lower leg. Its primary function, together with the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), is to stabilize the knee and keep it in place.
Types of MCL Injuries
MCL injuries are prevalent in contact sports. An MCL tear occurs when excess pressure is applied to the knee, forcing it to move sideways. Due to increased stress on the knee, the MCL may split in two, pushing the knee out of its usual position.
MCL injuries can be classified into three grades based on severity. These grades include:
- Grade I MCL tear: A Grade I MCL tear is the mildest injury, generally characterized by minimally torn fibers. Treatment for a grade 1 MCL tear doesn’t require surgery given that the ligament, in most cases, is intact with no loss of integrity.
- Grade II MCL tear: A Grade II MCL tear is a moderate injury with a partial tear of the ligament. The incomplete damage means that the knee joint may become moderately weak or unstable if left untreated.
- Grade III MCL tear: A Grade III MCL is the most severe injury affecting the ligament. The damage is characterized by a complete tearing and gross laxity of the medial collateral ligament. Considering the severity of an MCL injury, surgery is often recommended.
Symptoms of an MCL Tear
As with most ligament injuries, the signs of an MCL tear are not always apparent. An injured person might only hear a popping or snapping sound when the injury occurs. Other possible symptoms associated with MCL tears include:
- Gradual swelling in the area and around the knee joint
- Stiffening of the affected knee
- Locking in the knee joint
- Pain and tenderness along the inside of the knee
- Difficulty climbing stairs following the injury
- Inability to straighten or bend the affected leg
- A feeling of looseness in the kneecap
Other ligaments may tear at the same time as the medial collateral ligament. However, injuries to the lateral collateral ligament are usually rare given its position behind the knee joint.
Diagnosing an MCL injury usually entails a physical examination performed by a qualified physician. The doctor will first ask about the events that led to the injury (collision, fall, etc.) before inquiring about any symptoms that suggest the injury is an MCL tear.
A physical examination revolves around bending the knee and inspecting the affected area for swelling and tenderness. The doctor may also order an MCL tear test on the affected area to ascertain that the ligament is torn. These tests may include imaging tests such as X-rays and MRI scans.
MCL Treatment Options in Houston, Beaumont and Cypress
Treating an MCL tear depends on the severity of the injury. Treating Grade I and Grade II MCL tears doesn’t necessarily require surgery, while treating a Grade III MCL tear may require a surgical procedure performed by a professional orthopedic surgeon.
In most cases, MCL injuries do not require surgery, and they may heal on their own after some time. You must avoid putting too much pressure on the affected knee by getting plenty of rest and using crutches to support the injured leg.
Some of the recommended nonsurgical treatment options include:
- Putting ice against the side of the injury
- Using knee braces for compression
- Raising the knee to prevent swelling and discomfort
- Taking anti-inflammatory drugs (non-steroid drugs) to help with pain
- Resting to speed up the healing
An MCL test must be performed first to determine whether surgery is required. Your doctor will examine and interpret the test results before deciding the best treatment option for your knee.
In most cases, the physician will recommend surgery if the ligament is completely torn to the extent that it can’t heal on its own. Surgery is also the ideal option when other ligaments are damaged as well.
Preparing for MCL Surgery
Preparation is essential for ensuring a safe and successful MCL surgery. You’re advised to seek a second opinion from a qualified orthopedic surgeon before the procedure. This conversation will help you comprehend the benefits and risks of undergoing surgery. Here are a few tips on preparing for MCL surgery:
- Obtain the necessary equipment that you might need before the surgery, such as knee braces, crutches and ice packs.
- Inform your doctor if you’re taking any medications or if you have any infections.
- Practice moving with crutches for a few weeks before the surgery in case you need them afterward.
- Carry out a background check on the orthopedist to confirm their certification.
- Don’t eat or drink anything 12 hours before the surgery.
- Arrange for someone to drive you to and from the hospital.
- Wear loose clothing.
- Have a positive mindset.
What Does MCL Surgery Entail?
MCL surgery is an invasive procedure that involves making a small incision on the big-toe side of the affected knee. The process takes one to two hours depending on the number of damaged ligaments. General anesthesia is used to numb the area and relieve pain during surgery.
If the procedure is successful and there are no reported complications, the patient may be allowed to go home within a few hours after surgery. The doctor will recommend various medications to help with pain and inflammation.
MCL Tear Recovery Time and Rehabilitation
Recovery time depends on the severity of the injury and the treatment option used. Grade I and II MCL tears are normally not severe, and they rarely require surgery. Recovery times for these injuries range from a few days to two weeks.
Grade III MCL tears are the most severe, and they often require surgery. Considering this fact, recovery time may take anywhere from eight to 16 weeks. However, patients can hasten the healing process by beginning strength and stability exercises four to six weeks after surgery or as recommended by the surgeon. Your doctor will design a custom rehab program that involves stretch and strength exercises to aid in your full recovery.
If you need medical help with diagnosing and treating MCL injuries, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Mufaddal Gombera. Dr. Gombera is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with vast experience in diagnosing and treating MCL tears in Houston, Beaumont and Cypress. Call (713) 794-3457 today to book your appointment.