Knee injuries can be really painful, leading to partial or complete loss of mobility. When it comes to sports injuries, ACL and MCL tears are two of the most common knee injuries that impact the patient’s mobility. While both these musculoskeletal issues deal with your knee and showcase similar symptoms, it is important to understand the difference between them to obtain precise orthopedic care from your doctor.
Whether you require an ACL tear treatment or a treatment procedure for MCL depends on the knee ligament you end up damaging. Let us understand how ACL tears differ from MCL tears by having a glimpse of the two conditions.
What Is An ACL Tear?
The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is a band of tissue that connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia) in the knee joint. An ACL tear is a common injury that can occur during sports or activities that involve sudden stops, pivoting, or changes in direction. It can also occur from a direct blow to the knee, such as during a car accident or a fall.
When your ACL tears, it can cause pain, swelling, and instability in the knee joint. The severity of the tear can range from a partial tear, where the ligament is stretched but not completely torn, to a complete tear where the ligament is completely severed. Treatment for an ACL tear depends on the severity of the injury and may include rest, physical therapy, bracing, or surgery to repair or reconstruct the torn ligament. Without proper treatment, an ACL tear can lead to long-term complications, such as arthritis and instability in the knee joint.
What Is An MCL Tear?
Your knee joint also contains the MCL, also called the medial collateral ligament, which is a strip of tissue connecting the femur to the tibia and located on the inner side of the knee. Injuries to the MCL, known as MCL tears, are common among athletes, occurring when there is a direct impact on the outer part of the knee or a twisting force during physical activity.
MCL tears result in swelling, pain, and instability of the knee joint, especially on the inner part. The tear may range in severity from partial, in which the ligament is stretched but not fully torn, to complete, which is a complete severance of the ligament. Treatment options depend on the severity of the injury and may include rest, physical therapy, bracing, or surgical intervention to repair or reconstruct the damaged ligament. While most MCL tears heal with appropriate treatment, the recovery period can vary depending on the extent of the injury.
ACL Tear Vs. MCL Tear: A Detailed Comparison
Now that we are well-versed with the two issues, let us understand the subtle differences between them to know if your doctor would recommend an ACL surgery or an MCL tear treatment.
Here are some of the most important parameters that form the basis of ACL tear vs. MCL tear:
The ACL is a crucial ligament located in the center of the knee joint, which connects the thigh bone to the shin bone. It is responsible for providing stability to the knee joint and preventing excessive forward movement of the shin bone. The MCL, on the other hand, is a ligament located on the inner side of the knee joint, which provides stability and prevents excessive sideways movement of the knee.
ACL tears are often caused by sudden stops or changes in direction during physical activity, such as landing awkwardly from a jump, pivoting or cutting movements, or a direct impact on the knee. On the other hand, MCL tears are often caused by a direct impact on the outer part of the knee, such as a collision with another player or a twisting force during physical activity.
Both ACL and MCL tears can cause pain, swelling, and difficulty with weight-bearing and movement of the knee joint. ACL tears may also cause a popping sound or sensation at the time of the injury, and the knee may feel unstable or give way during movement.
An MCL tear can cause pain and tenderness on the inner side of the knee joint, as well as a feeling of instability or wobbliness during movement.
ACL tears can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the injury. Complete tears of the ACL typically require surgery to repair or reconstruct the ligament, while partial tears may be treated with non-surgical methods such as physical therapy or bracing.
On the other hand, MCL tears are usually treated non-surgically, although surgery may be necessary in rare cases where there is significant damage to the ligament or other structures in the knee joint.
Recovery time for both ACL and MCL tears depends on the severity of the injury and the type of treatment.
ACL tears typically require a longer recovery period, ranging from six months to a year, due to the need for surgical reconstruction of the ligament and extensive rehabilitation. MCL tears are capable of healing within several weeks to a few months, with treatment consisting of rest, ice, compression, and physical therapy to strengthen the knee joint and prevent further injury.
While these differences stand true with regard to the theoretical factors, it is always advisable to seek help from an orthopedic surgeon in your city for a final opinion.
The Final Word
These were some of the most important differences between ACL an MCL tears. While both ligament tears affect your knee’s functionality and cause immense pain and discomfort, the key differences between them make their diagnoses and treatment procedures unique.
If you or any of your loved ones suffer from a serious injury that damages their ACL or MCL, make sure you consult the best orthopedic surgeon in your city for quick and effective treatment. Moreover, if you go through an MCL or ACL surgery, it is important to focus on extensive rehabilitation to recover in the best way possible.