Grade 1 MCL Sprain Rehab Phase 1

Phase 1 begins as soon as possible after injury and usually lasts 1 week. The aims of phase 1 are to reduce swelling if there is any, ensure the knee can be straightened fully and bent to more than 90 degrees and begin pain-free strengthening exercises.


  • Rest from all activities that cause pain. Whenever you trigger pain you are stressing the ligament and preventing it from healing.
  • Whether you need complete rest, or simply need to avoid specific activities will depend on how bad your injury is. However, it is likely you should avoid running and will definitely need to avoid any activities which involve sideways movements or twisting.
  • Wear a knee brace to protect and support your knee. A hinged knee brace provides the highest level of support and protects the knee from lateral (sideways) movements which may stress the injured ligament.
  • When pain allows, begin walking normally without support. Progress gradually until you can walk normally without any pain.

Cold therapy & compression

  • Apply cold therapy and compression as soon as possible after injury. This is important for limiting swelling and relieving pain. A reusable cold therapy compression wrap is ideal.
  • Cold compression can be applied for 10 to 15 minutes every 2 hours for the first day.
  • The frequency can be gradually reduced to 3 times a day over the next few days depending on your symptoms.
  • Do not apply ice directly to the skin as it may burn. If you are using ice or a bag of frozen peas then wrap it in a wet tea towel before applying to your skin.

Sports massage

  • Sports massage can usually be applied from day 2. Specifically cross friction massage techniques can be applied to the ligament.


  • If available, Ultrasound can also be applied to the ligament area. This has a micro-massage effect and helps reduce swelling.

Stretching exercises

  • Stretching exercises for quadriceps and hamstring muscles as long as they can be done pain-free.
  • If stretching exercises are painful then wait, or begin with gentle flexion and extension mobility exercises.

Strengthening exercises

Begin the following strengthening exercises as soon as pain allows. But DO NOT do hip adduction as this will stress the medial ligament.

Isometric quadriceps


Double leg calf raises


Hamstring curl with resistance band


Hip abductors


Hip extension


Maintaining fitness

  • Maintain aerobic fitness with cycling.
  • Apply cold therapy after each strengthening and stretching session.

Next: Go to phase 2 >>>

This article has been written with reference to the bibliography.