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Athletes can often feel like regulars at the sports injury clinic in Toronto. In addition, the advice received can become confusing when terms like ligament tear and sprain are used interchangeably.
But the difference between a sprain and a tear isn’t as complicated as many people think. The following will help you understand ligament sprains and tears so that you can identify injuries and get the right treatment as soon as possible.
What Is A Ligament?
A ligament is a fibrous tissue that connects bones to other bones. Ligaments hold the joints of the body together. Ligaments give the various joints in our neck, shoulder, spine, and wrists range of motion and control.
Because ligaments are soft tissues, they are prone to injuries. Most injuries to the ligament are caused by either sudden trauma or overuse.
Ligament Sprains And Tears
There’s often confusion about the difference between a sprain and a tear. A sprain occurs when a ligament is stretched beyond its capacity or has small tears.
A slightly stretched or torn ligament is a relatively mild condition. When a ligament has been sprained, it’s still attached to the bone but has been damaged in some way.
A ligament tear is more severe. When you’re diagnosed with a torn ligament, it indicates that the ligament has either pulled away from the bone or torn completely in half.
If you experience a torn ligament, you’re likely to feel it. If a strange popping sound occurs and you feel a sudden pain, then you’ve likely torn a ligament.
Common Ligament Injuries
Injuries of the ligament are common. Ligaments undergo a lot of wear and tear as a result of the movement that joints produce on a daily basis. Some of the most common ligament injuries include:
- Sprained ankle – This commonly occurs while walking on uneven surfaces or during sports such as soccer, running or with falls. Ligaments of the ankle can tear or stretch if the foot lands in an awkward position.
- Achilles tendon sprain – A common sprain in runners and joggers, Achilles tendon sprain occurs when there are tiny tears along the ligaments that connect the calf muscle to the heel bone. The primary symptom is pain in the calf and heel during push off.
- ACL injury – The thighbone and shinbone are held together by bands of ligaments that form a cross pattern called the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). Injury to the ACL occurs when a person stops suddenly or rotates the knee unnaturally when landing. An ACL injury is most likely to occur while playing sports such as hockey, soccer, skiing and contact sports such as football.
Ligament injuries take time to heal. A physiotherapist is the best professional to assist you in pain management and preventing deconditioning while the healing happens. Physiotherapy techniques can speed up the healing process and increase your confidence in preventing more injuries and a safe return to work and sport after an ACL injury. More severe injuries may require surgery to repair the damage.
If you’ve been injured and aren’t sure if it’s a sprain or a tear, consult with your physiotherapist as soon as possible to diagnose your injury and obtain a comprehensive treatment plan.