MCL Sprain Rehab Overview

Here we outline treatment and rehabilitation programs for a grade 1, 2 and 3 medial collateral knee ligament sprains. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis to determine the grade of your injury. Grade 1 is a mild sprain, grade 2 is moderate and grade three severe or complete tear of the ligament.

The following examples are for information purposes only. We recommend seeking professional advice before attempting any rehabilitation or exercise. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis to determine the grade of your injury.


Grade 1 MCL Rehab Program

If you have a grade 1 MCL sprain, you may have mild tenderness on the inside of the knee over the ligament. Usually, there is little or no swelling. The rehabilitation protocol for a mild medial ligament sprain can be split into 4 phases:

  • Phase 1 begins immediately following injury and usually lasts 1 week. The aim is to reduce swelling and ensure your knee can be straightened fully and bent to more than 90 degrees pain-free.
  • Phase 2 begins after 1 week. The aims are to eliminate swelling, regain full range of movement and return to slow jogging.
  • Phase 3 usually begins after 2 weeks. The aims are to maintain a full range of motion, equal strength of both legs, return to running and some sports -specific training.
  • Phase 4 usually begins after 4 weeks and lasts 3 to 6 weeks. The aim is to return to full sports specific training and competition.

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Grade 2 or 3 Sprain

For grade 2 and particularly grade 3 sprains, it is important that the ends of the ligament are protected and left to heal without continually being disrupted. The rehabilitation guidelines for a grade 2+ or 3 medial ligament sprain (more severe) are separated into 4 phases:

  • Phase 1 begins immediately following injury and may last 4 weeks. The aims are to control swelling, maintain the ability to straighten the leg bend the knee to more than 90 degrees, begin strengthening exercises.
  • Phase 2 usually begins after 4 weeks and lasts for 2 weeks. The aims are to eliminate swelling, full weight bearing on the injured knee, full range of motion, injured leg almost as strong as the good one.
  • Phase 3 begins after week 6 and lasts for a further 4 weeks. The aims are to regain full range of motion, strength, return to light jogging and by week 10 from injury, return to sports specific exercises.
  • Phase 4 usually begins 10 weeks following injury and lasts for between 2 and 4 weeks. The aims are to return to full sports specific training and competition without a brace for support and regain full strength and mobility.

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This article has been written with reference to the bibliography.

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