The medial collateral (MCL) ligament of the elbow is situated on the inner elbow and helps to provide stability to the joint. Damage to this ligament can occur through an impact injury or an accident or from repetitive overuse, for example throwing with poor technique.
Symptoms of a Medial Ligament Injury
- Tenderness and pain when pressing in on the area of the ligament.
- Pain and possibly instability when stressing the ligament (straighten the arm and aim to bend the forearm laterally - away from the body).
- Severe injuries may result in swelling and bruising around the inner elbow.
- Pain may be felt on resisted elbow flexion (bending).
Causes of MCL Injuries
Impact injuries causing damage to the medial ligament usually involves a lateral force (towards the outside) being applied to the forearm, placing the medial (inner) joint under stress.
Overuse injuries of the MCL may also occur. Repetitive motions which place a lot of stress on the inner elbow can cause damage to the ligament. For example, throwers (track and field and ball sports such as baseball) are prone to this injury. Especially if the technique is poor!
- Rest - if caught early enough simply modifying the technique to avoid stressing the ligaments may be enough. However full rest may be necessary.
- Ice or cold therapy to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Ultrasound therapy.
- Application of tape to protect the ligaments.
- Sports massage may be helpful, especially friction techniques to break down scar tissue and increase blood flow.
- Wearing an elbow support may be helpful to aid heat retention, encourage blood flow and promote healing.
- Surgery may be performed to reconstruct the ligaments however this is a very last resort as results are not often good.