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"How would I know if I had a ligament tear?"


My knee has been swollen for about a week after I stepped funny while I was running. Did I tear a ligament? How would I know if it was torn? Could it just be swollen because of a bruise or something like that?


Traumas to the knees and ankles are very common in sport injuries and can sideline an athlete for months. If you had a bruise or a knee effusion, the swelling should probably get better in a week. But injuries to the ligaments and tendons which you might actually have will take longer to heal.

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All injuries will cause an inflammatory response leading to swelling, pain, and sometimes fluid collection. On the other hand, if you do not treat the injury appropriately (i.e. rest, ice, and elevation), the swelling can take a lot longer to come down. Thus, injuries involving the joints require you to limit your activities significantly so that the tissue tears do not get repeated as it is trying to heal. One way to tell whether or not you have a ligament tear is by physical exam. The ligaments hold you knee joint together. Disruption of any of the ligaments can make this joint unstable. But an MRI is usually needed to evaluate which ligaments are torn and to what extend. You would benefit from consulting with an orthopedic surgeon. That said, tendons and ligaments have very poor blood supply. Thus, injuries to these tissues can take a lot longer to heal. Anything that you do to optimize this would help to facilitate a speedier recovery (i.e. not smoking, eating a healthy diet with high protein, fruits and vegetables). Again, please talk to your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

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