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The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists

Ligament Injuries – What you need to know

What Are Ligaments?

Ligaments are bands of connective tissue composed of collagen that connect one bone to another. They serve as passive stabilizers of joints, meaning they do not contract or activate like muscles to stabilize a joint. Besides providing stability, ligaments play a crucial role in proprioception—the sense that lets you know the location, motion, and action of a body part without having to look at it. This proprioceptive function is vital when jumping, running, and even walking.

How Are Ligaments Injured?

Ligaments are located where two bones meet to form a joint, such as in your knees, ankles, and shoulders. A ligament injury, known as a sprain, occurs when excessive force is applied to a joint, causing the ligament(s) to overstretch. Common examples include:

  1. Lateral Ankle Sprain: Rolling your ankle outward can overstretch the lateral (outside) ankle ligaments, potentially leading to a sprain.
  2. MCL Sprain: If your knee buckles inwards, it places excessive stress on the medial collateral ligament (MCL) on the inside of your knee, possibly resulting in a sprain.

Grades of Ligament Injuries

Ligament sprains can range from an overstretch to a complete rupture, and are often graded from 1 to 3:

Grade 1: Minor Injury

  • Description: Ranges from an overstretch to minor tearing of the ligament.
  • Signs & Symptoms:
  • Little to no swelling
  • Slight tenderness
  • No limp or slight limp
  • Little to no range of motion restriction

Grade 2: Moderate Injury

  • Description: Partial tearing of the ligament, possibly affecting one or more ligaments.
  • Signs & Symptoms:
  • Definite swelling and bruising
  • May have heard/felt a “pop”
  • Very sore
  • Partial weight bearing with a definite limp; may need crutches
  • Stiffness and limited range of motion

Grade 3: Severe Injury

  • Description: Complete rupture of the ligament, likely with other ligamentsor structures also injured.
  • Signs & Symptoms:
  • Severe pain; initially very painful, then possibly no pain due to nerve disruption
  • Non-weight bearing
  • Heard/felt “Pop”
  • Lots of swelling and bruising

Book an Appointment

If you suspect you have injured a ligament or frequently experience ligament injuries, it’s important to seek professional medical advice.
Feel free to book an appointment with a member of our team today to get the care and guidance you need.

by Jack MacCullagh
Athletic Therapist

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