Ligaments are structures made of fibrous connective tissue in your body that attach bone to bone and provide stability. Ligaments are important structures that allow us to run, jump and perform sports at a high level by keeping our joints together. Ligament tears can be thought of as a spectrum of a problem from small partial tears to complete tears.
When a ligament is torn, typically there is pain and swelling that occurs when the injury first happens. Then over time, the swelling improves and pain subsides but the area of the body affected remains unstable and prevents you from performing certain moves without a feeling of “giving way” of the joint.
When you have a ligament tear, there will likely be a history of a traumatic event or accident that you recall when the symptoms began. Sometimes though, there may be a minor trauma or accident that causes a partial tear that is not bothersome initially, but then becomes symptomatic over time as the tear slowly progresses and becomes larger.
If you have a partial tear, over time, the tear may become larger and progress to a full tear which is typically associated with worsening instability. If you have a full thickness tear, each time your joint “gives out” or subluxes, other structures in the joint that were not damaged initially may become damaged causing more overall structural damage to the joint.
When to see your doctor:
If you have had an accident or something feels like it is “giving way” or “buckling”, you should see your physician for further evaluation as a delay in diagnosis may worsen your condition.