Yankees catcher Brian McCann twisted his knee during Tuesday night’s game while blocking a Dellin Betances curveball in the dirt. His knee clearly buckled and the result was an injury to his Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL). He was checked by the trainers and, despite the pain, he remained in the game and even proceeded to hit a home run in the bottom half of the inning. An MRI on Wednesday confirmed an injury to his MCL, but instead of going on the disabled list, he remains with the team as a back up, and he even pinch hit during a critical moment late in Wednesday night’s game.
McCann is showing great strength by continuing to contribute to the team while planning to return soon to his catching position. This is not a common feat for any player, let alone a catcher. The MCL is one of the main stabilizers of the knee. It is also the most commonly injured ligament in the knee. Direct injury often causes more severe tears while non-contact (awkward shifts) injuries to the knee result in milder sprains or partial tears to the MCL.
Injuries to the MCL can cause swelling, severe pain, difficulty ambulating, and instability. It is not uncommon for MCL injuries to be associated with more serious injuries such tears to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).
Treatment of MCL sprains or tears includes NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory medications), rest and physical therapy. The physical therapy focuses on quadriceps strengthening and and hip motion exercises above the knee. Resistance exercises and the stationary bike is progressed as tolerated. Orthopedic surgery is unlikely in isolated low grade MCL tears. Higher grade tears often require bracing for stabilization and promotion of healing. Orthopedic surgery may be necessary in multiple ligament injuries, tears that avulse far from the bone (which would prevent healing) or in cases of entrapped ends of the torn ligament.
Typically, return to play is 5-7 days in grade 1 injuries such as the one McCann likely suffered. His dedication to the team and appreciation of the importance of the present (long awaited) pennant race is most surely evident by his fortitude to stay and contribute to the team.