MCL Sprain Exercises

The following MCL sprain exercises form part of our MCL Sprain rehab program. Created by elite sports physiotherapist Phil Pask they include mobility, proprioception, functional, plyometric, and agility exercises.

These exercises for MCL sprain are tailored to help patients recover quickly and return to their normal activities, reducing the risk of further injury.

Stretching & mobility exercises

Begin mobility exercises as soon as pain allows.

Seated knee flexion

Perform this exercise without your knee brace on. Simply bend and straighten your knee. This exercise helps keep your knee joint mobile whilst you are injured.

Prolonged calf stretch

Wrap the resistance band or belt around both feet. Hold the other end of the resistance band and pull it gently towards you until you feel the stretch in your calf. Keep your legs straight to maintain the stretch.

Knee slides

Slide your heel up as far as is comfortable, then straighten.

Flat foot stepovers

Step over a hurdle sideways to mobilise your hips. Take it easy and perform with your feet flat rather than on your toes.

Myofascial quad stretch

This stretches the quadriceps muscles without needing to bend the knee as much.

Hamstring stretch

Option 1: Standing

Place one foot in front of the other with hands on the floor. Straighten your legs keeping your hands flat on the floor, and feel the stretch on the back leg.

Option 2: Sitting

Sit with one leg straight and one bent, and reach forward keeping your head and chest up. Feel a stretch at the back of the straight leg.

Option 3: Lying on back

Lie on your back and use a band to pull your leg up. Feel the stretch at the back of the leg.

Activation exercises

These exercises keep your hip muscles firing and in good condition.

Clam in flexion

Lie on your side with your knees bent and slightly forward so your hips are in flexion. Raise your knee up in a slow, controlled movement and return to the start position. If you begin to find this exercise easy then you can increase difficulty with a stronger band.

Clam in extension

Performing the clam exercise with your knees moved further back places your hips into extension. This targets the muscles on the outside of the hip in a slightly different way. It is important to do these exercises on both sides. If you begin to find this exercise easy then you can increase difficulty with a stronger band

Crab walks

Place a resistance band around your knees and walk sideways. This gets the hip muscles firing and fatiguing under bodyweight load.

Single-leg quarter squat

Stand next to a wall with a gym ball between you and the wall. Perform a quarter squat on one leg using the ball for support.

Single leg turnouts

Balance on one leg with the other knee bent, foot resting on the inside of the supporting leg. Whilst maintaining your balance turn the knee out and in.

Strengthening exercises

These should begin as soon as pain allows. Begin with isometric or static muscle contractions.

Single leg raise

The starting point is lying on the back with both legs out straight. One leg is then lifted a few inches off the couch/floor, keeping the knee straight. Hold for 5-6 seconds before the leg is lowered slowly back to the floor.

VMO inner range quads

Contract your quadriceps muscles and hold. Relax, then repeat.

VMO with hamstring push

Contract your quadriceps muscles and hold. Whilst still contracting the quad muscles, use your hamstring muscle to push downwards and hold. Relax, then repeat.

Step down counterbalance front

Step down using a pole as a counterbalance. Perform the movement slow and controlled and make sure you do both legs.

Step down counterbalance side

Step down to the side using a pole for balance. Perform in a slow and controlled manner. Do both sides.

Bridge from bench

Place a band around your knees to increase the tension on the outside hip muscles as you perform the exercise. Bridge exercises can be done on the floor, or with feet raised.

Dumbbell squat to bench

Legs shoulder-width apart with the toes pointed out slightly. Bend your knees and slowly lower your body down onto the bench until your buttocks touch the bench. Don’t rest on the bench, slowly raise your body back up by pushing through your heels and don’t lock your knees when you stand up.

Bent knee heel raise

Do a heel raise exercise with your knees slightly bent, and progress from double-leg heel raises to single-leg as pain allows.

Single-leg suitcase lift

Use a weight in the same arm and the same leg you are working on, also use a weight in the opposite arm to the leg you are working on.

Single-leg skater squat

Movement control exercises

Proprioception or movement control exercises involve balance and coordination which is often damaged by a knee injury. Standing on one leg with your eyes closed is one way of measuring this.

Gym ball bridge

A gym ball bridge can be done, but only if it is pain-free. With heels on the ball push the hips upwards maintaining control throughout.

Movement control exercises

Standing wobble board

Perform wobble balance board exercises in a standing position. Close your eyes if you need to make it harder. If you do not have a wobble board then stand on one leg with your eyes closed.

Forward T

Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent and lean forwards. Open up your arms pulling the non-supporting leg backwards to make the shape of a ‘T’.

Lunge lean hold

Lunge onto the forward leg and get your balance. Then lean forwards over the supporting leg, lifting the back leg up into the ‘T’ position. Hold for a few seconds then bring the back leg through, knee up in front to finish.

Functional exercises

These tend to be more advanced sports-specific type exercises which bridge the gap between normal rehabilitation and returning to full sports training or playing.

A marching linear

This is a functional exercise that helps transition to running and more explosive exercises later on. March forwards on your toes driving your knees high.

A marching lateral

Perform marching drill sideways, aiming to be on your toes with high knees.

Lunge walk

Land forward absorbing the force on the front leg. Keep your body upright.

Sumo kettlebell squat side

Hold a kettlebell and step out to the side planting all of the weight onto one leg. As you squat down with the weight moving backwards slightly turn out the other leg and repeat on the opposite side.

Lunge walk rotation with a stick

Lunge forward and rotate across the front leg.

Agility square

Simple agility: 10m agility square.

Plyometric exercises

Plyometrics or plyometric exercises are a form of strengthening exercise, incorporating jumping, bounding and hopping movements, which work to increase power in the muscles.

Agility drills

Agility exercises involve changing direction, using small hurdles and agility ladders.

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