Soft tissue tears and injuries
A torn ligament is often referred to as a soft tissue tear. Injuries to soft tissues are very common in sport, particularly to areas such as ligaments, cartilage and tendons.
The knee is a complex joint and has many different structures inside and outside of the knee area. Ligaments are very important because it’s ligaments that connect bones together. There are several different ligaments within the knee: posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL).
Anterior & Posterior Cruciate Ligaments
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) act as a support and help to keep the knee stable during backwards and forwards movement. Damage to the anterior cruciate ligament in particular is seen as one of the most serious ligament injuries that can occur and are much more common.
The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), purpose is to prevent the shinbone (tibia) from sliding too far backwards and so helps to maintain the shinbone in position below the thigh bone (femur). One of the most common posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), injuries is often referred to as the ‘dashboard injury’ which occurs when the knee is bent at the point when an object hits the shin with full force. This most commonly occurs in motor accidents and sports related injury resulting from an athlete falling onto the front of their knees. In this injury, the knee is hyperflexed (bent all the way back), with the foot held pointing downwards.
Medial & Lateral Collateral Ligaments
The medial collateral and the lateral collateral ligaments are found on either side of the knee joint and their primary function is to limit the amount of movement from side to side. A tear or sprain to the medial colleteral Ligament can occur if the leg is twisted whilst it’s straightened, usually this happens in a sporting situation such as a rugby tackle. If you are unfortunate to experience damage to your medial collateral or lateral collateral ligaments, depending upon how severe the damage is will depend upon how the Knee Specialist might diagnose your injury. For example, you could have stretched the ligament without tearing, experienced a partial tear of the ligament or you may have a complete tear. It is very important to seek the advice of a Specialist Knee Surgeon to ensure a correct diagnosis.
Symptoms of a Torn Ligament Injury
Some people have reported hearing or feeling a popping or snapping sensation at the time of the injury and then not being able to put their full weight onto the affected leg. Undoubtedly you will also feel some pain and you may also notice the knee joint swelling and feel fluid around the knee area. If any of these symptoms occur then you should immediately apply the simple rule of PRICE:
- Protect – stop what you’re doing.
- Rest – try not to move the leg for a couple of days and then try to reintroduce movement.
- Ice – apply ice directly onto the joint for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours to help reduce any swelling and bruising (do not apply ice directly onto the skin, always wrap in a towel).
- Compression – bandage the joint to support the injury and help to reduce the swelling.
- Elevation – raise the knee above the level of your heart and rest it, but keep it supported at all times.
Treatment of a Torn Ligament Injury
You will need the guidance of a doctor to determine the extent of your injury and in some cases you may be referred to a Knee Specialist. Treatment of torn ligaments is dependent upon the diagnosis and in most all cases, recovery takes time and so you must be patient. There are several routes to treatment depending upon the extent of the injury. Your doctor may suggest rest and painkillers for a short period to see if the damaged ligament recovers itself. If the doctor feels the injury is more extensive then you may be referred to a Knee Specialist for more investigation where a course of physiotherapy together with support devices to aid recovery may be advised.
If, however, the Knee Specialist feels that deeper investigation is required he may suggest a knee arthroscopy, which could lead to a procedure if the results of the arthroscopy concludes surgery is required.
If you are experiencing problems with your knee, then a proper consultation with a qualified and experienced Knee Specialist is essential. Mr Guido Geutjens will always take you through a thorough examination and investigation process before providing a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis has been given, and if a torn ligament in the knee is confirmed, Mr Geutjens will then discuss with you the correct procedure to ensure a successful recovery from the condition.
How do I know if I have a ligament tear?
Some people say they hear a ‘popping’ sound or feel a ‘snapping’ sensation at the time a ligament injury is sustained. Either way, if you have torn a ligament, you will undoubtedly feel some pain, experience swelling around the affected area and have difficult in placing weight on the damaged knee.
Do ligament tears heal themselves?
Although some ligaments do heal spontaneously, most will need expert treatment. If you suspect that you have a ligament tear, you must seek expert assistance immediately. Depending upon the diagnosis, treatment in a brace may be needed. Others will need surgical treatment.
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