Returning to sports after MCL injury

by Jeannie
(California)

My 13 year old son injured his MCL during a soccer game 4 1/2 months ago. He was in severe pain (unrelieved by morphine)and unable to walk after the injury. Urgent care put him in an immobilizing brace and he spent the next two days on the couch still unable to move without severe pain (on vicodin). At a followup appointment with a family doctor, he was diagnosed with an "MCL sprain" and told to use crutches for the next 4-6 weeks. He was able to put a little weight on the knee after 4 weeks, but needed the crutches for the full 6 weeks. At that point, he went to PT for a month, and then began a twice-weekly knee workout class to build up the strength in his leg. He says the knee no longer feels unstable and is at about 85%, but when he tries light jogging it starts hurting right away--not a lot, but it does hurt. He is supposed to start spring baseball practice within the next couple of weeks. The PT wants him to see a sports medicine doctor for further evaluation. I'm waiting for his doctor to get back from vacation so we can get the referral, but in the meantime I'd like to hear your opinion on what could be going on and whether we should even consider having him play baseball this spring.

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Mar 02, 2010
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Thanks for your input
by: Jeannie

We'll see what the doctor says/does when he goes in for the evaluation. You're confirming our feeling that he just won't be able to play baseball this year. I can't see him being able to do a full-out sprint down a 90 foot base path. He is also hesitant to push things because the original injury was so traumatic in terms of pain. I really appreciate your comments; thanks so much.

Mar 02, 2010
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return to sports
by: Bart - SII

I can't really comment on what might be going on, but there are any number of things that could be contributing to his knee pain with running. Muscle weakness, poor neuromuscular control, or other problems that weren't diganosed initially with the tear. Your follow up with a sportsmed physician should give you better indication on what might be causing the continued pain. 4.5 months is a little long for a normal MCL recover, but everyone is different.

As far as returning to sports - I always recommended to my patients to not return until they were pain free. Returning too early leads to either compensations in muscle function that can lead to other injuries, or the possibility of re-injury. Continuing with the strengthening, and following up with your physician's referral for further diagnositics is the best course of action.

Bart

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