A ligament connects bone to bone, with the primary function of a ligament being the passive stabilisation of a joint. The most common form of ligament injury is through a sprain, typically occurring in the ankle. An ankle sprain tends to involve the inward movement of the foot causing a ligament known as the anterior talofibular ligament to be injured. This ligament injury can be graded in 3 ways.
Grading of Injury
There are three grades of injury with the ligaments, this will range from mild to severe.
- Grade I: The ligament only has minor damage with a few fibres torn. There is structural damage only on microscopic level, with slight local tenderness and no joint instability present.
- Grade II: The ligament will have a partial tear of the ligament, there will be far more fibres ruptured, swelling will be visible and noticeable tenderness, but with a mild instability in the joint.
- Grade III: This refers to the complete rupture of the ligament, there will be a significant instability in the joint, with significant swelling visible around the joint.
The extent of the ligament injury can be determined by assessing the ligament itself. By placing the ligament under stress we are able to observe the level of stability in the joint, whilst the level of swelling will also be noted.
How to Help Yourself
After the initial injury, it is best practice to immediately take action on the injury. A protocol that is easy to implement and simple to follow is the RICE protocol.
- R- Rest the area for the first 2-3 days following the injury. This has been shown to be beneficial in the recovery of ligament injuries, however, this rest period should not be prolonged.
- I- Icing the injury can help with pain relief, whilst this also has a constrictive effect on the blood vessels, in turn, helping reduce the swelling and further damage to the area injured. There is no optimal icing period, however, 20 minutes of ice followed by a 2 hour break should be followed; placing the ice in a tea towel will also be beneficial in the prevention of ice burns.
- C- Compression of the injury site can further reduce swelling whilst also offering minimal protection of the area affected. The use of an elastic bandage can allow for the most comfortable form of compression. This can also reduce the bleeding around the injury site.
- E- Elevating the injured limb will further reduce the amount of swelling from to injury, this is done through the increase of venous return and the facilitation of waste removal.
How We Can Help You
Upon your initial protection of your injury through the RICE protocol, we can look to diagnose the grading of your injury. This will then inform us of the exercises that you will need to complete to get you back to full fitness. This sort of injury will require professional guidance to prescribe exercises and treatments safely. Our aims will be to balance the muscle strength in your injured limb compared to the uninjured side, reduce your pain, increase your function through the use of specific exercises to help you in your recovery. For the lesser extent of ligament tears, these can take anywhere from 3 -12 weeks for you to recover whilst a grade III injury can typically take up to a year to make a full recovery.