MCL Sprain Rehabilitation


Our MCL sprain rehabilitation program is designed by England Rugby Team Physiotherapist Phil Pask and takes you step by step from the onset of injury all the way through to your return to sport or activity.


The program consists of four phases with a fifth injury prevention phase. At each phase we explain the treatment and demonstrate exercises you should do.

It is criteria based rather than timeline. At the end of each phase you need to be able to reach specific criteria before moving on to the next phase.

Our simple, interactive progress check questionnaires help you decide when it is safe to progress.

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Phil Pask

Phil Pask

Phil is one of the World’s most experienced Sports Physiotherapists. He has been England Senior Rugby Team Physiotherapist since 1997, continuing his role in recent years as Consultant Physiotherapist to the team.

Phil draws on years of experience in creating this detailed rehabilitation program for mild to moderate MCL sprains. It is based on what an elite athlete would do but modified for people of all levels and abilities to do at home.

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MCL rehabilitation program structure

The program consists of 4 phases with a 5th additional phase:

Phase 1

  • The aim of phase one is to protect the injured ligament to allow it to repair to its optimal strength and as close to its original length as possible.
  • Treatment methods include applying the PRICE principles of protection, rest, ice, compresion and elevation to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Although rest is the priority during phase 1, there are a number of exercises you can still do.

Phase 2

  • The aim of phase 2 is to regain normal range of movement and increase the ability of your knee to take load in a controlled environment.
  • Treatment continues with cold therapy and compression but also massage techniques may be introduced.

Phase 3

The aim of Phase 3 is to prepare your ligament to withstand heavier loads throughout full range of movement. You will progress to dynamic loading such as hopping, jumping, and running up to 75% pace.

Phase 4

  • The aim of Phase 4 is to prepare and return you to your sport/activity safely, with the ability to perform at your best with confidence.
  • Exercises become more demanding, with heavier loads and unpredictable movements.

Phase 5

  • We have included an additional fifth, ‘injury prevention’ phase for when you are back into normal sports training to help prevent your injury recurring.
  • The aim here is to continue what you have learnt over the previous phases and ensure your injury does not recur.
  • You are encouraged to incorporate selected exercises from phases 3 and 4 into your normal training routine.

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The program includes video demonstrations of over 60 different exercises covering mobility, stretching, strengthening, movement control, muscle activation and functional exercises.

Mobility & stretching exercises

These aim to maintain normal range of movement in the ankle, knee and hips. They begin early in stage one with simple active ankle movements and gradually progress to more dynamic hip mobility drills.

Activatiion exercises

These exercises are aimed at maintaining the hip abductor muscles (outside of the hip). It is important these muscles keep firing and stay in good condition ready for the demands later in the program.

Strengthening exercises

These exercises are aimed at maintaining and improving specific muscle strength around your knee joint. They begin with simple isometric exercises where you contract your muscles statically, without moving your leg.

As you progress they become increasingly more demanding, with heavier loads and unpredicatable movements.

Movement control exercises

These are proprioception type exercises, aimed at improving your balance, control and spacial awareness. Again, they start with simple balance exercises and progress to advanced balance board movements.

Functional exercises

Functional exercises bridge the gap between basic rehabilitation and sports specific type drills. They begin with walking drills and progress through skipping type sprint drills and agility training.

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This article has been written with reference to the bibliography.
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