Ligaments hold your bones together to restrict excessive joint movement. They are similar to tendons and have high concentrations of collagen fibres allowing them to withstand a lot of force.
Interestingly, tendons are often chosen as the donor tissue for ligament reconstructions (i.e. hamstrings tendon for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction). Unfortunately, ligaments have a poor blood supply so are slow to heal – at best taking approximately 3-4 months.
Common Causes of Ligament Injuries
Ligament injuries are referred to as ‘sprains’. They occur when a joint is stretched beyond its normal limits.
Ligament tears are graded depending on the level of damage:
Grade 1 mild– micro trauma, minimal pain, minimal loss of range of movement (ROM), reasonable strength and function, no joint instability
Grade 2 moderate – partial tear, very painful, moderate loss of ROM, poor strength and function, may have joint instability
Grade 3 severe – complete/near complete tear, severe loss of ROM, very poor strength and function, significant joint instability (will require an orthopaedic opinion)
This is a hereditary condition where an individual has generalised ligament laxity and is able to move their joints beyond normal limits eg. hyperextension of the knees and elbows. In extreme cases some people can voluntarily dislocate their joints (not recommended!). Loose ligaments and unstable joints can develop into other problems such as cartilage damage, early onset of arthritis, recurrent joint subluxations/dislocations, muscle/tendon injuries and joint pain.
The ligaments of the shoulders are particularly susceptible to overuse injuries in individuals who participate in overhead sports eg. baseball, volleyball. Often over-training, inefficient movement and muscle imbalances contribute to the problem. It is important to address these issues to prevent an injury from recurring or getting worse.
Please keep in mind the information provided is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute to consult your treating health professional. If you have any specific questions or require assistance with your individual treatment requirements please do not hesitate to contact MyFamily Physio Mona Vale, Northern Beaches Sydney.