The Difference Between ACL and MCL

Your knee is a very complex arrangement of tendons, ligaments, bones, and cartilage. If one of those components receives damage, your athletic career and lifestyle can change drastically. Two commonly injured parts of the knee are the ACL and MCL. Understanding these ligaments can help in your orthopedic care.



Your ACL, or Anterior Cruciate Ligament, is the band in the middle of your knee. Its purpose is to keep your thighbone (femur) and your tibia (shin bone) in their proper places, and maintain the stability of your knee. Any football fan can tell you that an ACL tear can be a career ending injury due to the intensive reconstruction and rehabilitation that must be performed to repair and recover from the tear.

The most typical causes of an ACL tear or rupture are when a player changes direction suddenly or contact from the side hyperextends the knee. When a severe tear or rupture occurs, it’s nearly impossible to put weight on the knee without serious pain and a feeling that the knee is going to “buckle” underneath you. Anything

more than a minor tear usually requires surgery. Whenever ACL damage occurs your orthopedic care specialist will order an MRI scan to determine the extent of the damage.


The MCL, or Medial Collateral Ligament, runs along the inside of your knee, helps stabilize it and prevents it from bending too far in towards your other knee. Changing direction quickly, twisting the knee, or participating in sports where a lot of jumping and landing is required (think of skiing) are likely to cause damage to this ligament.

Most of the time with an MCL injury, surgery is a last resort and used mainly if another part of the knee has also been damaged. Most likely, you’d be put in a brace and advised to stay off of the knee. Anti-inflammatory medications and ice are also helpful with an MCL injury.

Knees are very vulnerable joints, especially for athletes inaggressive sports. Proper conditioning and warm ups should be considered a mandatory part of your activity for the best interest of your orthopedic care.

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