A tendon is a flexible cord of strong fibrous collagen tissue that attaches muscle to bone, while a ligament is a short band of flexible connective tissue which connects bone to bone or cartilage to cartilage. In this way, tendons help to move the bone or joint while ligaments aid in holding the joint or structure together. All over the body, tendons and ligaments hold bones and joints in place, in the hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, knee and ankle. When injury occurs, the ligaments and tendons may be stretched from their position which would cause instability of the ankle, wrist or knee. Such injuries will require surgery to repair, reconstruct and put the ligament back into place.
When a ligament is damaged, Dr Khumalo may suggest ligament repair surgery. During this surgery, ligaments may be tightened and strengthened again by placing them back onto the bone in the correct position. In other instances where the ligament is severely damaged or torn, ligament reconstruction may be needed in which a tendon is harvested to replace the damaged ligament.
Following a ligament repair surgery, you will have an immobilising material placed on the area. This may take the form of a sling or cast depending on the area in which the ligament was repaired. This is done to allow limited movement of the muscles to allow recovery for the next 2 weeks. After this, you will be advised to have physiotherapy to help regain strength, mobility and coordination of the specific joint. You will be able to return to normal activities with comfort only after full recovery, which may take up to 4 weeks. Until then, vigorous exercise and activity should be limited until strength and mobility returns.