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Medial collateral ligament injuries of the knee in male professional football players: a prospective three-season study of 130 cases from the UEFA Elite Club Injury Study

Journal article
Authors Matilda Lundblad
M. Hägglund
C. Thomeé
Eric Hamrin Senorski
J. Ekstrand
Jón Karlsson
M. Waldén
Published in Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy
Volume 27
Issue 11
Pages 3692–3698
ISSN 0942-2056
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Health and Rehabilitation
Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Orthopaedics
Pages 3692–3698
Language en
Keywords Bracing, Epidemiology, Football, Injection, MCL, MRI, PRP, Soccer
Subject categories Epidemiology, Sport and Fitness Sciences


Purpose: Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury is the single most common traumatic knee injury in football. The purpose of this study was to study the epidemiology and mechanisms of MCL injury in men’s professional football and to evaluate the diagnostic and treatment methods used. Methods: Fifty-one teams were followed prospectively between one and three full seasons (2013/2014–2015/2016). Individual player exposure and time-loss injuries were recorded by the teams’ medical staffs. Moreover, details on clinical grading, imaging findings and specific treatments were recorded for all injuries with MCL injury of the knee as the main diagnosis. Agreement between magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and clinical grading (grades I–III) was described by weighted kappa. Results: One hundred and thirty of 4364 registered injuries (3%) were MCL injuries. Most MCL injuries (98 injuries, 75%) occurred with a contact mechanism, where the two most common playing situations were being tackled (38 injuries, 29%) and tackling (15 injuries, 12%). MRI was used in 88 (68%) of the injuries, while 33 (25%) were diagnosed by clinical examination alone. In the 88 cases in which both MRI and clinical examination were used to evaluate the grading of MCL injury, 80 (92% agreement) were equally evaluated with a weighted kappa of 0.87 (95% CI 0.77–0.96). Using a stabilising knee brace in players who sustained a grade II MCL injury was associated with a longer lay-off period compared with players who did not use a brace (41.5 (SD 13.2) vs. 31.5 (SD 20.3) days, p = 0.010). Conclusion: Three-quarter of the MCL injuries occurred with a contact mechanism. The clinical grading of MCL injuries showed almost perfect agreement with MRI grading, in cases where the MCL injury is the primary diagnosis. Not all grade II MCL injuries were treated with a brace and may thus indicate that routine bracing should not be necessary in milder cases. Level of evidence: Prospective cohort study, II. © 2019, The Author(s).

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