What is a Ligament Injury?

What is a Ligament Injury?

Ligaments are strong connective tissues that hold bones together and provide joint stability. Overstretching a ligament can result in injury, which sometimes includes tearing.

A ligament injury is sometimes indicated by a “popping” sound and can be very painful, often accompanied by swelling and bruising. This popping sound is usually heard when an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is torn. A tear to the ACL in the knee is one of the most common ligament injuries in sports. It typically occurs when twisting quickly—for instance, when changing direction in sports like football, basketball, skiing, and soccer.

Ligament injuries can also occur in the shoulders, ankles, wrists, and thumbs.

Types of Ligament Injuries


Ligament injuries are considered sprains and are graded according to their severity:

  • Grade 1 –A ligament is stretched with a possible mild tear
  • Grade 2 - The ligament has sustained a tear
  • Grade 3 –The most severe ligament injury where a complete tear, called a rupture, has occurred

Signs & Symptoms of Ligament Injury


The signs and symptoms of a ligament injury can be obvious—the affected area will be painful and tender, accompanied by bruising and swelling. The severity of a tear depends on a person’s range of motion and the treatment needed.

The main symptoms of a ligament injury are:

  • Pain
  • A “popping” sound when the injury first occurred
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Inability to bear weight down on the joint
  • The joint may feel loose

What Causes Ligament Injury?


A ligament injury can occur when a joint is forced out of its position. This can happen due to a fall, a sudden twist, or a blow to the body, as in football.

The sports that lead the way in enduring the most ligament injuries are:

  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Football
  • Ice Hockey
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Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Ligament Injury Care

Ligament injuries need prompt medical attention. While mild ligament tears may eventually heal by themselves, moderate to severe ligament tears should be handled by a professional sports medicine specialist or orthopedic doctor. NewYork-Presbyterian specialists offer operative and non-operative services for every type of orthopedic injury affecting people of all ages, including children and infants.