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Tendon and Ligament Tears, Ruptures, and Injuries

Contact UPMC Orthopaedic Care

To request an appointment or for additional information, please call 1-855-828-9795 or submit a form online.

What Are Tendon and Ligament Tears?

Tendon and ligament tears or ruptures are 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. Treatments can include a brace, medicine, or surgical repair.

Tears or ruptures to the tendons and ligaments can:

  • Cause extreme pain.
  • Happen at any time.
  • Limit or prohibit proper joint function.

Types of ligament or tendon tears and ruptures

Tendon and ligament tears and ruptures can affect many joints in the body, but our knees often take 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 balances forces through the knee joint, allowing the femur and tibia to glide against each other smoothly without causing damage to the bone.

Tendon tear causes and risk factors

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 be at a higher risk for ACL tears, but they can happen to anyone 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.

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. This will allow your doctor to assess the severity of the injury prior to swelling, which makes it harder to diagnose.

Tendon/Ligament Tear and Rupture Symptoms and Diagnosis

Off all the possible tendon and ligament injuries that can occur, the two most common are tears to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus in the knee.

Tendon and ligament tear or rupture symptoms

When you tear your ACL, the knee becomes unstable.

Other symptoms of an ACL tear include:

  • A popping sound or feeling in the knee at the time of injury
  • A great deal of pain

Some symptoms of a meniscus tear include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Popping or clicking sensation
  • Inability to straighten the knee

Diagosing tendon or ligament tears and ruptures

You should see a doctor immediately after tearing or rupturing a tendon or ligament. Swelling can affect the diagnosis of your injury.

To diagnose a tendon or ligament injury or rupture, your doctor will collect your medical history and perform an exam.

He or she will ask you questions such as:

  • How and when did the injury happen?
  • Did you hear a popping sound?
  • How intense is the pain?
  • Have you had any previous injuries to the knee?

Your doctor may order an x-ray or MRI to help confirm a diagnosis.

Tendon/Ligament Tear and Rupture Treatments

Tendon and ligament tears or ruptures are painful injuries that require an experienced orthopaedic specialist to properly diagnose and treat them.

At UPMC Orthopaedic Care, we offer nonsurgical and surgical treatments for tendon and ligament tears and ruptures.

Choosing the best treatment option will depend on the extent of the tear or rupture, your desired activity level, and other factors.

Nonsurgical treatment for tendon and ligament tears or ruptures

If you don't intend on resuming your active lifestyle, your doctor may suggest the following nonsurgical treatments:

Ligament and tendon tear or rupture repair surgery

If you intend on returning to vigorous activities and sports, tendon tear or rupture surgery may be in your best interest.

The goals of tendon or ligament surgery are to:

  • Provide stability to the affected joint
  • Restore range of motion
  • Allow you to return to an active lifestyle

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