Critical to the stability of the knee joint, the medial collateral ligament (MCL) runs from the bottom of the femur to the top of the tibia on the inside of the knee joint.
The medial collateral ligament works to resist widening of the inside of the knee joint, and can be injured if the foot is bent outward, away from the midline, or the outside of the knee joint is struck.
In these cases the outside of the knee buckles, and many times a popping sound or tearing sensation is felt on the inner side of the knee.
Other symptoms include pain directly over the ligament, and swelling over the injury site. If the injury is severe, the knee may feel unstable, or as though it may 'give out' or buckle.
Injuries to this area are rated as either Grade 1, 2, or 3.
Grade I: Bruised ligament, no instability
Grade II: Mild to moderate instability - partial or incomplete tear
Grade III: Very unstable, usually associated with other injuries
The treatment of Grade I and II injuries is the same - ice, compression, NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs), and an early return to movement - stationary cycling is especially good for this.
A Grade III injury is far more serious, usually involves other injuries, and likely will require surgery.