The effects of mobilization on matrix reorganization and density after ligament injury were studied in rat medial collateral ligaments using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Both medial collateral ligaments of 14 Sprague-Dawley rats were sharply incised transversely at their midpoint. A 1.14-mm threaded Kirschner wire was driven through the tibia and into the femur of the right leg (through the knee) to immobilize that knee at 90 degrees of flexion. Four additional rats were used as controls. The right medial collateral ligament of the control rats was exposed in the same manner as the experimental rats and the wound closed without damaging the ligament. Rats were sacrificed on the 7th and 14th days postinjury and the ligaments evaluated by SEM. The electron micrographs from this study demonstrated that early on, the tissue at the injury site is disorganized on a gross scale with large bundles of poorly organized matrix. Large "defects" were present between bundles in the substance of the ligament and appeared as holes in the ligament around the injury site. As healing progressed, the matrix in the mobilized specimens appeared to bridge the injury site more rapidly and completely with fewer "defects" and thus higher density than the immobilized specimens.