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What is Ligament Tear: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Recovery Period

What is Ligament Tear?

Ligaments are bands of tissues which connect the bones of our body together. Since they connect the bones together and hence they are prone to rupturing or tearing, especially in the areas of the body which are heavily used like the weightbearing joints.

Ligament tear is more likely to occur in athletes for sporting activities or by laborers involved in construction who use their hands and feet a lot. Due to overuse and excessive strain being put on them by the activities, ligaments tend to break away from the bone resulting in symptoms of pain and reduced motion of the affected area. This is termed as a Ligament Tear.

A Ligament Tear can also occur with a simple slip and fall accident where the individual lands either on the hand or the foot, severely stretching the ligament to such an extent that they break away from the bone resulting in Ligament Tear.

What is Ligament Tear?

The ligaments that are prone to tear commonly are knee ligaments and ankle ligaments, as they are the weightbearing joints and are at maximum use throughout the day and are always under high pressure. Ligament Tears can be classified into three parts which are:

Grade l or Mild Ligament Tear: These are mild form of tear in which the ligament is just over stretched and does not break away from the bone. It may result in minimal symptoms of pain.

Grade 2 or Moderate Ligament Tear: These tears are termed as moderate as some part of the tendon may break away from the bone. The individual with grade II ligament tear or moderate ligament tear will have some difficulty with pain and motion of the affected joint.

Grade 3 or Severe Ligament Strain: These are the most severe forms of Ligament Tears in which the ligament completely detaches itself from the bone and the individual has severe symptoms of pain and inability to move the joint.

What are the Causes of Ligament Tear?

Even though ligaments are quite strong and it is quite a challenge for them to rupture or tear but sometimes a sudden extra stretch or an abnormal movement of the joint may result in Ligament Tear. This is most common in sports especially contact sports like football and hockey where the players have to put in an extra yard of effort and force thus putting excessive strain on the ligaments causing them to rupture and resulting in Ligament Tear. The degree of the strain being put on the ligament and the symptoms experienced decides the severity of the Ligament Tear. Sometimes, the ligaments are stretched so far out that it the condition becomes permanent and the ligament never comes back to its normal position.

What are the Symptoms of Ligament Tear?

Some of the symptoms of a Ligament Tear are:

  • Sudden onset of excruciating pain and severe swelling
  • Feelings of instability in the joints
  • Inability to move the affected joint.

How is Ligament Tear Treated?

How is Ligament Tear Treated?

Treatment for Ligament Tear starts of with the RICE protocol. The patient is asked to rest and not to put pressure on the affected region for at least a couple of days after the injury so as to prevent any further damage to the ligament. If the knee or ankle is involved then the patient is recommended not to be weightbearing on that extremity for at least four days postinjury.

The next step is to apply ice wrapped in a towel to the affected area for 15-20 minutes two to three times a day to calm down pain and inflammation and allow the injury to heal. After the application of ice, the torn ligament joint needs to be wrapped with a compression so as to allow healing of the ligament and prevent any swelling and inflammation. During this time, the patient is recommended to elevate the injured area so as to prevent swelling from occurring. These things need to be done for the first three days after the injury.

The patient suffering from ligament tear may also be given medications to control pain. After a few days of rest once the inflammation calms down a bit physical therapy may be started to get you back into shape to facilitate speedy return to normal activities. The physical therapist will formulate a detailed therapy regimen which will include various stretching and strengthening exercises along with range of motion exercises to get the joint back into motion.

What is the Recovery Period from Ligament Tear?

Majority of cases of Ligament Tear resolves within four weeks of injury and the patient can return back to normal level of activities but in some severe cases it may take up to 12-16 weeks for full recovery from a Ligament Tear.


  1. DeAngelis, Joseph P., et al. “Ligament Injuries in the Knee.” Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine, Volume 10, Issue 1, 2017, pp 110-121. DOI: 10.1007/s12178-017-9386-9
  2. Englund, M., and Guermazi, A. “Roemer, F., et al. Imaging of Meniscal and Ligamentous Injuries in the Knee: A Clinical Perspective.” European Radiology, Volume 12, Issue 4, 2002, pp 514-525. DOI: 10.1007/s00330-001-1183-1
  3. Dikos, George, et al. “Evaluation of Ligament Tears: The Role of Imaging.” Insights into Imaging, Volume 4, Issue 3, 2013, pp 281-294. DOI: 10.1007/s13244-013-0242-x

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 1, 2023

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