What Are Tendon and Ligament Tears?
Doctors define tendon and ligament tears or ruptures as injuries to the soft tissues that connect muscles and joints. Common symptoms of tendon and ligament tears are pain and swelling. You may also hear or feel a pop when you tear the tissue.
Tears or ruptures to tendons and ligaments can:
- Cause extreme pain.
- Happen at any time.
- Limit or prohibit proper joint function.
Tendon and ligament tears are common injuries. For example, the most common knee ligament injury is tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). About one in 3,500 people will injure their ACL.
Doctors have ways to treat ligament and tendon injuries. Less severe ones may recover on their own with rest. Many people also need bracing and medicine to help recover.
Some people need surgery to repair a torn or ruptured tendon or ligament.
What are the types of ligament/tendon tears and ruptures?
Tendon and ligament tears and ruptures can affect many joints, but our knees often bear the brunt of these injuries.
Two well-known knee tears or injuries are:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. The ACL is one of the major ligaments controlling how knee motion occurs.
- Meniscus tears. Our knees each have two menisci. This tough cartilage cushions the joint so the femur and tibia can glide against each other without damaging the bone.
What Causes Tendon and Ligament Tears?
The main cause of torn tendons and ligaments is traumatic injury, such as:
- A sudden impact to the joint.
- Quickly stopping or starting.
- An abrupt movement to the joint.
Football and basketball players tend to have a higher risk for ACL tears, but anyone can have one at any time.
Meniscus tears have two common causes — a traumatic injury to the knee or the process of degeneration. They often occur from twisting a bent knee joint.
What are the risk factors and complications of tendon and ligament injuries?
Adults are more likely than kids to tear tendons. However, young athletes (and athletes of any age) are at risk for tendon injuries.
Age contributes to your risk for a tendon rupture because tendons lose elasticity the older you get. People who do repetitive motions, like lifting, are also at risk for tendon injury.
Ligament injuries have similar risk factors. However, certain ligament injuries are more likely in women than men, such as a torn ACL. Sports like football, soccer, basketball, downhill skiing, and gymnastics are also risk factors for ligament injury.
Left undiagnosed, tendon and ligament injuries can lead to pain, lack of mobility, and even issues like arthritis.
Make an appointment for tendon or ligament tears
If you tear or rupture a tendon or ligament, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your doctor needs to see how severe the injury is before it starts to swell. Swelling makes these injuries harder to diagnose.
Contact UPMC Orthopaedic Care
To request an appointment or for more information, please call 1-866-987-6784 or submit a form online.