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Patient Education: Diseases Conditions Treatments & Procedures

Torn Ligament

Overview

Ligaments are strong, leather-like fibers of connective tissue that help keep the joint stable. They can be stretched (sprained), or partially or completely torn. A ligament tear can cause bleeding inside the joint, producing a swollen, painful joint that will not bear weight. Within two weeks of the injury, a simple sprain or partial tear can often be treated in a brace or plaster cast (groin to toes) for four to six weeks. This is followed by approximately six weeks of physiotherapy and a return to sports in three to six months. An acute complete tear of one or more ligaments often requires surgery. The torn ligaments are sewn up and the patient spends four to six weeks in a cast. Sometimes it is impossible to repair the ligament, and under these circumstances, a new ligament must be constructed using the patient’s own tissues (tendons or connective tissue), or by using synthetic materials (an artificial ligament). After surgery for a torn ligament, plaster casts or braces may be required followed by physiotherapy. Return to full sporting activities may take nine months to a year.

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