Often resulting from the physical demands on the body by athletic activity, ligament tears
are serious injuries that can sideline an athlete for weeks. Only an orthopaedic surgeon,
such as Dr. Haar, can accurately diagnose and treat a torn ligament, and therefore, one
should be consulted when a ligament tear is suspected.
Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that stabilize the bones of a joint while still allowing
a limited range of motion. Ligaments are similar to tendons in that each are connective
tissues; however, while tendons connect muscles to bones, ligaments connect bone to bone.
How Do Ligament Injuries Occur?
Also known as a sprain, ligament injuries occur when a ligament is extended beyond its normal
range of motion, which is often the result of a traumatic injury. Commonly, traumatic
ligament overextension occurs during athletic activity, and includes the blunt force of a
football tackle and the twisting of a player quickly changing direction or landing awkwardly
from a jump. Ligament sprains and tears also can result from non-athletic trauma, such as a
fall or an awkward step onto an uneven surface.
Depending on the severity of the overextension, ligament sprains are classified into three
- Grade I: Minor sprain (common in the wrist and
ankle) with symptoms of minimal tenderness and swelling (Grade 1 sprains can often be
treated non-surgically through rest and icing.)
- Grade II: Moderate sprain with partial tearing of
the ligament (Accompanied by moderate pain, swelling, loss of joint function, and
bruising, Grade II sprains will likely require immobilization of the joint.)
- Grade III: A complete tear of the ligament
Many ligaments lack the blood supply to self-heal, and a complete tear will often require
surgical intervention for proper and complete treatment, as well as to safeguard against
chronic re-injury of the joint.
Commonly torn ligaments include the ACL in the knee, ATFL of the ankle, and the UCL of the
elbow – all of which can be treated through arthroscopic methods.
Diagnosis & Treatment
If a severely torn ligament is suspected, an exam by an orthopaedic surgeon is the likely
first step to proper treatment. Along with a discussion about symptoms and medical history,
Dr. Haar will conduct a physical examination of the affected joint, likely comparing the
injured joint to its uninjured opposite and inspecting for abnormalities.
If further examination is required, imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, may be ordered to
provide a more detailed assessment of the injury.
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical technique commonly utilized in the
reconstruction of torn ligaments. Utilizing a fiber-optic camera and in-OR monitor, Dr. Haar
is able to view the injured joint through only a minimal incision. With this optimal view of
the joint, Dr. Haar can accurately diagnose the extent of the injury and will likely repair
the torn ligament during the same procedure.
Ligaments cannot be healed by simply sewing the two ends back together. To properly treat a
ligament for long-term function, a tissue graft will be taken from either another part of
the patient's body or from a donor cadaver.
REHABILITATION AND RECOVERY
Arthroscopic techniques potentially provide the patient with several benefits compared to
traditional surgery. The minimally invasive approach to surgery reduces the damage to
tissues surrounding the injured joint. The reduction in collateral damage results in a
quicker recovery process from the surgery, along with less scarring from the small
Although the recovery process is shortened through the use arthroscopic surgical methods,
proper healing will still require a rigorous physical therapy regimen to strengthen the
injured joint and regain the joint's full range of motion. It typically takes patients 6 to
12 months to fully recover from a surgically repaired ligament injury.
Ligament Injury Treatment In New York
Dr. Robert Haar specializes in the arthroscopic treatment of ligaments, specifically within
the knee, shoulder, and elbow.
Schedule an appointment
at Dr. Haar’s Manhattan office