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Torn Ligaments

Symptoms Checklist:

  • The pain started suddenly
  • It followed a sharp twisting or wrenching movement
  • The knee was straight at the moment it was struck/twisted
  • There is extensive swelling to the area
  • It is excruciatingly painful
  • The knee will take no weight
  • If you can move it, the joint feels loose and floppy
  • At the moment of injury you heard the knee “pop”

Ligament Tear

The 3 bones of the knee are held together by 4 main ligaments, 2 at the front, deep in the knee, which run from top to bottom, diagonally and cross each other.  Since they cross, they are referred to as cruciate ligaments.  The other 2 ligaments are located, one at either side. The knee is normally a very strong and stable joint, because of the strength of these ligaments.  Tearing or severing any one of these ligaments, aside from being extremely painful, is very damaging to the stability of the joint and consequently a career threatening injury.  Torn ligaments will not heal themselves, they need to be surgically repaired.  Usually ligaments torn in the centre will be sewn together, and ligaments torn from the bone will be stapled back on to it.  In some cases, reconstruction of the knee is required.  Since the blood supply is so poor to ligaments, and the speed of repair depends on the flow of nutrients and blood to the affected area, complete rehabilitation is slow and may not be possible for older people.  Typically rehabilitation lasts 6 months or more.  A Physical Therapist will carry out special tests to see which, if any, of the ligaments are torn.  See: Knee Ligament Tests

Physical Therapy/Osteopathy and Torn Ligaments

Post surgery the Physical Therapist plays the crucial role in returning the knee to full health.  Once the knee is immobilised for even a few days, the muscles immediately begin to atrophy.  Immediately post surgery, the Physical Therapist will work to reduce swelling and increase circulation in the joint.  They will gently work to restore the flexibility to the knee by taking it through its range of movement.  As the soreness eases, they will introduce more vigorous exercise.  You will also be shown exercises you can do, that will help restore the muscles.  A healthy ligament sends important information to the brain regarding the location of the joint.  This happens in a similar way to your knowing at all times where your finger is – though your eyes may be closed.  Once the ligament is severed this information is no longer being sent. This process of “proprioception” can be encouraged through specific exercises to achieve a complete recovery.  In some cases, a weakened or damaged ligament can be compensated for, by strengthening the surrounding muscles.   The therapist will assess you recovery, ensuring that your exercise regime is appropriate to your stage of the recovery process.

Tags: Lower Body, Knees, Shin, Ligaments, torn, Tendons, Ligament Tear, Sports Injuries


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