MCL Tears Vs. ACL Tears

The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is along the inside of your knee, while the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is in the front of your knee. Your MCL keeps your knee from bending too far inward and allows it to rotate, and your ACL helps to keep your knee steady and prevents it from turning too much. 

MCL tears typically occur during rigorous physical activity, oftentimes during sports like football or soccer. A tear occurs when the knee is hit directly from the outer side. This stretches the ligament and can cause tearing. 

When your knee is suddenly twisted or dislocated, an ACL tear can happen. Usually, you will hear a loud popping sound if you tear your ACL. Pain can occur immediately, and it can be difficult to straighten out your knee. 

It can be difficult to tell the difference between an MCL and ACL tear because they can share many symptoms. Symptoms include:

  • Bruising
  • Inflammation 
  • Intense pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling

The biggest difference between the two tears is that you may hear a pop during an ACL tear, but you will not hear one for an MCL tear.

MCL tears can often be treated with rest, bracing, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy. ACL tears can have the same treatment options, but they are more likely to require surgery. 

Our knee experts will work with you to determine the best treatment plan for you. They will always consider nonsurgical treatments first. If nonsurgical treatments do not alleviate the pain, surgery can be performed.

If you are experiencing knee pain or think you have torn your MCL or ACL, schedule an appointment online with one of our knee surgeons at Heartland Orthopedic Specialists or call (800) 762-1177.