Do you need an MRI for an MCL tear to determine how severe it is?

For many bone and joint injuries, orthopedic surgeons use x-rays to make the diagnosis. Some injuries can’t be seen on x-rays. An MRI can be very helpful to show a sports or exercise injury, especially a tendon or ligament injury. When do you need an MRI to find out what the injury is and how severe it might be? In this Ask Dr. Geier video, I explain when an MRI for an MCL tear could be used and how doctors can tell the grade of tear without it.

Jem asks:
I am suffering from an MCL injury 2 weeks ago. My doctor hasn’t asked for an MRI. Is there any symptom that may indicate the grade of my injury?

The medial collateral ligament, or MCL, is a thick ligament on the medial side of the knee – the side closest to the midline of the body. You can suffer a torn MCL from a blow to the outside of your knee. Generally MCL injuries don’t need surgery. Often rest from sports and wearing a brace can help the MCL heal.

The MCL does not show up on x-rays, but an MRI can show an MCL injury. Does that mean you always need an MRI for an MCL tear? How can doctors tell you have suffered a torn MCL, and tell the grade of injury, by examining your knee?

Do you always need an MRI for an MCL injury?

If you have suffered a knee injury that you think is a torn MCL, watch the video to learn how orthopedic surgeons can often figure out if you have an MCL injury and how severe it is without an MRI for an MCL tear.

Also read:
Should you wear a brace for an MCL tear?
How can I fully recover from an MCL injury?

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