Up until now I had never broken a bone, but I had damaged soft tissue (ligament and tendon) a number of times. Every time I sprained or tore a ligament people would tell me that I would have been better off to break my bones. Recovering from my second wrist surgery this statement returned to me. Without question, it seems like I have been having a much tougher time recovering from the surgery to repair my ligament, than I did for the one on my bone. Even more than that, is the recommendations for use and activity level (pre surgeries). With the broken bone as the only identified problem I was casted and told to continue. I even played clarinet with the doctor’s permission. But as soon as they decided my ligament was damaged I was put on some extreme restrictions. Basically no activity aside from a few unexciting physio exercises. So why is there such a difference?
It turns out that the difference relates to how the different materials heal in your body. Put simply, bone replaces broken bone, but not quite to not even close to the same tissue replaces damaged ligament tissue. One article described the replacement tissue as “grossly, histologically, biochemically, and biomechanically similar to scar tissue…[which is] functionally different from normal tissues” (p.6).
Just a few of the differences include higher cell turnover, disorganized collagen, higher cell density, and more flaws between fibers. The result of these and other differences is that the “healed” ligament is weaker than the original.
Bone on the other hand, can end up being stronger after a break.
So I would have been better off to break the bone because our bodies generally do a good job of healing the bone, but in the case of the ligaments my body is attempting to patch a hole with a roll of scotch tape.
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