MCL or ACL Ligament Tears in the Knee


The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of the four main ligaments connecting the femur to the tibia. If your ACL tears through completely, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair it.

The orthopedic specialists at Orthopedics and Joint Replacement at Mercy in Baltimore work with patients to diagnose and provide some of the best treatment options for knee injuries, including MCL or ACL ligament tears.

About the Condition

The knee is stabilized by four ligaments:

  • Medial collateral
  • Lateral collateral
  • Anterior cruciate
  • Posterior cruciate

The medial collateral ligament (MCL) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) are the most commonly injured ligaments in the knee. The MCL typically is injured by a hit to the knee from the side. The ACL is injured with deceleration, pivoting and hyperextension of the knee which can happen in such sports as soccer, basketball and skiing.

NEXT: Symptoms & Diagnostic Process ›
Symptoms & Diagnostic Process

MCL tear symptoms include:

  • Pain on the inside of the knee
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Feeling the knee is not stable

ACL tear symptoms include:

  • Hearing a pop in the knee followed by immediate swelling
  • Feeling the knee joint is loose and may give out
  • Pain
  • Inability to bear weight on the knee

Orthopedic doctors specializing in knee injuries often can diagnose MCL and ACL tears by performing a physical exam of the knee to look for knee instability. X-rays or MRIs also may be conducted diagnose a ligament tear in the knee.

NEXT: Treatment Options ›
Treatment Options

A MCL tear in the knee most often is treated successfully with:

  • Rest
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • A brace (for more severe knee injuries)

An ACL tear cannot heal on its own. More active individuals with a complete tear risk instability and permanent damage to the knee joint if the ACL tear is not treated. Treatment options for an ACL tear include:

  • Aggressive rehabilitation emphasizing hamstring strength
  • Ligament reconstructive surgery to regain knee stability
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Patient Stories
Orthopedics and Joint Replacement - Mercy, Baltimore MD


After a bad turn on the lacrosse field, Arianna was left with a torn ACL among other knee injuries, but was able to recover with the help of Dr. John-Paul Rue.

Meet Our Doctors: Orthopedics and Joint Replacement
Dr. Kamala Littleton, Orthopedic Surgeon
Kamala Littleton, M.D.

Dr. Kamala Littleton specializes in joint replacement and reconstruction for the hip, knee and shoulder. Her areas of expertise include anterior hip replacement, MAKO knee resurfacing, minimally invasive total knee replacement and ACL reconstruction.

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Patient Story:
Orthopedics and Joint Replacement at Mercy - Baltimore

A Mercy patient tells of her experience with a total knee replacement - one that went so well she later returned to Mercy to have the other knee replaced as well.

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