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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Simple agility: 10m agility square.
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 exercises involve changing direction, using small hurdles and agility ladders.