What Is the Difference Between an ACL and an MCL Injury?


Quick Answer

ACL injuries occur to the anterior cruciate ligament, while MCL injuries occur to the medial collateral ligament, according to Ohio State University Sports Medicine. Both injuries are common in sports that put stress on the knees, such as football, basketball and soccer.

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Full Answer

According to OSU Sports Medicine, the ACL is a band of connective tissue that connects the shin bone (tibia) to the thigh bone (femur). The purpose of the ACL is to prevent the shinbone from sliding forward out of its joint and hyperextending backwards.

WebMD notes that an ACL injury results in a tear to the connective tissue. It is often associated with a popping sound accompanied by pain and swelling. Additionally, the knee can become unstable resulting in buckling and limited movement. ACL injuries are usually resolved by surgery, although in some moderate cases physical therapy and rest can alleviate the problem.

OSU Sports Medicine describes the MCL as the ligament that runs along the inner part of the knee that connects the thighbone to the lower leg. The purpose of the MCL is to control side-to-side and rotational movements of the knee.

While MCL injuries can result in tears, more common injures are moderate to sever sprains, according to WebMD. Symptoms include pain, tenderness, swelling and limited range of motion. Treatment for most MCL injuries involves anti-inflammatory medicine and rest. However, surgery can be necessary for severe cases.

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