Article by John Miller
What is a 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 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.
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
- Knee Ligament Injuries
- ACL Injury
- PCL Injury
- MCL Sprain
- LCL Sprain
- Posterolateral Corner Injury
- Patella Dislocation
- Superior Tibiofibular Joint Sprain
Ankle Ligament Injuries
Shoulder Ligament Injuries
Wrist & Hand Ligament Injuries
Spinal Ligament Injuries
Helpful Ligament Injury Products available online
Treatment Options for a Torn Ligament
FAQs about Ligament Injury
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