Ligament Injuries

john miller physiotherapist

Article by John Miller

What is a Ligament?

torn ligament

Ligaments are short bands of tough, flexible tissue, made up of lots of individual fibres, which connect the bones of the body together. Ligaments can be found connecting most of the bones in the body. The function of a ligament is to provide a passive limit to amount of movement between your bones.

What is a Torn Ligament?

Ligament injuries in athletes are common and can occur at any joint. The knee and ankle are particularly vulnerable but it is sport specific. 

Ligaments are strained when the joint is stressed beyond its normal range. Common causes of a ligament injury include twisting or landing awkwardly. 

It is most common when the ligaments around a particular joint are at full-stretch can cause it to tear away from the bone. 

The most common torn ligaments are knee ligaments and ankle ligaments. This is because the joints are weight-bearing and under high stress with any change of direction sports or full contact sports.

The 3 Grades of Ligament Injury are:

  • Grade I - mild ligament tear
  • Grade II - moderate ligament tear
  • Grade III - complete ligament tear


What are the Symptoms of a Torn Ligament?

Ligament injuries are normally related to trauma that overstresses the ligament beyond its load capacity.

  • Traumatic cause.
  • Sudden onset of pain and severe swelling.
  • Subsequent joint instability.
  • Impaired function eg can't walk, run or weight-bear.

What's the Healing Time of a Ligament Injury?

Treatment of a ligament injury varies depending on its location and severity.

Grade I sprains usually heal within a few weeks. Maximal ligament strength will occur after six weeks when the collagen fibres have matured. Resting from painful activity, icing the injury, and some anti-inflammatory medications are useful. Physiotherapy will help to hasten the healing process via electrical modalities, massage and exercise.

Your physiotherapist will guide your strengthening and joint range of motion exercises to return you to function quickly and help you to prevent a future re-injury. 

Grade II sprains are more significant and disabling. These injuries require load protection during the early healing phase. Depending on the ligament injury this may include the use of a weight-bearing brace or some supportive taping is common in early treatment. This helps to ease the pain and avoid stretching of the healing ligament. Your physiotherapist or surgeon will guide you. 

After a grade II injury, you can usually gradually return to activity once the joint is stable and you have sufficient muscle strength and control. This may commonly take 6 to 12 weeks depending on your injury and what sport or activity you are wishing to resume.  Please seek the advice of your Physiotherapist or Orthopaedic Surgeon for what they recommend specifically for you and your injury. 

Physiotherapy is highly recommended for all grade II ligament sprains to restore full post-injury function and prevent future instability that may predispose you to further injury.

Grade III injury is a very significant injury and we recommend the opinion from an Orthopaedic Surgeon to determine whether early surgical repair is required. If surgery is required, your rehabilitation will be guided by your surgeon and physiotherapist.

In non-surgical ligament injuries, you will usually need to protect the injury from weight-bearing stresses. The aim is to allow for ligament healing in a short/non-stressful position.  Your rehabilitation will be slowly progressed to progress the repairing ligament as you and gradually return to normal activities.

Your optimal outcome will result from well-informed and specifically-guided physiotherapy. Depending upon your ligament injury, you may not return to your full level of activity for 3 to 4 months or even up to 12 months. Very severe ligament injuries can even take longer. Please consult your Physiotherapist or Orthopaedic Surgeon for all grade III ligament injuries.

For more ligament injury advice, please consult your trusted healthcare professional.

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How Do You Strengthen Ligaments?

Ligaments are passive restraints that limit excessive joint (bone on bone) motion. Unlike muscles, there is no specific ligament strengthening exercise. Instead, your ligaments will naturally strengthen as a direct response to your body's load requirements based on the exercise or functional demand that you place upon your joints.

While you do need to protect ligaments during healing phases. ligaments will naturally grow additional fibres as a response to your increased exercise load and functional demands. Keep up regular exercise and your ligaments will strengthen in response.

However, please remember that ligament injury occurs due to excessive or awkward forces placed on your joints, so avoiding ligament injury positions and postures are advised to avoid weakening your ligaments.

For specific advice regarding exercises to keep your joints, ligaments and muscles strong and posture so ligament sstressing posturers to avoid, please seek the professional advice of your trusted physiotherapist.

Common Ligament Injuries

General Ligament Injury Information

Knee Ligament Injuries

Ankle Ligament Injuries

Shoulder Ligament Injuries

Wrist & Hand Ligament Injuries

Spinal Ligament Injuries

Helpful Ligament Injury Products available online

Ligament Injuries

Treatment Options for a Torn Ligament

  • Early Injury Treatment
  • Avoid the HARM Factors
  • What to do after a Muscle Strain or Ligament Sprain?
  • Acupuncture and Dry Needling
  • Sub-Acute Soft Tissue Injury Treatment
  • Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises
  • Gait Analysis
  • Biomechanical Analysis
  • Balance Enhancement Exercises
  • Proprioception & Balance Exercises
  • Agility & Sport-Specific Exercises
  • Medications?
  • Soft Tissue Massage
  • Walking Boot
  • ACL Injury Prevention
  • Brace or Support
  • Dry Needling
  • Electrotherapy & Local Modalities
  • Heat Packs
  • Joint Mobilisation Techniques
  • Kinesiology Tape
  • Neurodynamics
  • Prehabilitation
  • Running Analysis
  • Strength Exercises
  • Stretching Exercises
  • Supportive Taping & Strapping
  • TENS Machine
  • Video Analysis
  • Call PhysioWorks

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    FAQs about Ligament Injury

  • Common Physiotherapy Treatment Techniques
  • What is Pain?
  • Physiotherapy & Exercise
  • What are the Symptoms of an ACL Tear?
  • Can Kinesiology Taping Reduce Your Swelling and Bruising?
  • Heat Packs. Why Does Heat Feel So Good?
  • Sports Injury? What to do? When?
  • What are Common Adolescent / Children Leg Injuries?
  • What are the Early Warning Signs of an Injury?
  • What is a TENS Machine?
  • What is Chronic Pain?
  • What is Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy?
  • What is Nerve Pain?
  • What is Sports Physiotherapy?
  • What to expect when you visit PhysioWorks?
  • What's the Benefit of Stretching Exercises?
  • Why Kinesiology Tape Helps Reduce Swelling and Bruising Quicker
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    Last updated 25-Apr-2018 02:40 PM

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