What’s the Difference Between Ligaments and Tendons

What Is A Tendon?

A tendon is a long thin fibrous tube which connects two bones or other structures (such as muscles) to each other. They are found throughout your body and they play various roles in supporting your joints.

Tendons are made up of many small fibers called myofibrils. Myofibrils are bundles of closely packed collagen molecules, which make up the connective tissue that makes up most tissues in your body. The term “tendon” comes from the Latin word for “long bone.” These bundles of myofibrils act like little extensions of your bones when you walk, run or even sit down.

The main purpose of tendons is to provide support and stability for your joints. When one joint moves, it causes the motion of another joint nearby. For example, if you have a knee that starts to bend forward while sitting down, then your foot will move too since there is movement between the toes and heel.

If both knees start bending at the same time, you would experience a complete dislocation of your lower leg because all four bones in your lower legs would be moving simultaneously. A tendon prevents this by providing a stable base for your bones to move around without any risk of dislocation or separation.

What Are Ligaments?

Ligaments are strong bands of fibrous tissue that attach bone to other bones. They provide the necessary support for your joints without any flexibility whatsoever. In other words, they limit the range of motion in your body at any particular joint. They also help stabilize the skeleton during physical activity.

There are many different types of ligaments in your body, but they all share certain common features. They all consist of dense bundles of collagen fibers and are arranged in such a way that they provide strength and flexibility where it is needed most.

Ligaments are much thicker than tendons and they are not as elastic either. They do not have the ability to stretch and then return to their previous length like tendons do. If a ligament is overstretched or damaged, then it can no longer provide adequate support for the connected bones.

What Is The Difference Between Tendons And Ligaments?

Tendons and ligaments both appear in similar places in your body and they both fulfill a similar purpose. Both are made up of collagen and both are found in areas where there is a lot of physical motion between two or more bones. They also both provide stability and strength.

Tendons are much more elastic than ligaments and can stretch to accommodate movement in the bones. They also provide some degree of flexibility for your body. Ligaments, on the other hand, have very little stretch and they do not allow for as much flexibility.

They also differ in terms of how they heal when damaged. Tears to the ligaments in your body do not heal back as well as tears to tendons and they often cause a lot of pain in the process. For this reason, if a torn ligament is found in a joint where it is not supposed to be (such as the knee), then surgery will be recommended to repair it.

× Unlock Content Over 75,000 lessons in all major subjects Get access risk-free for 30 days,

just create an account. Try it risk-free No obligation, cancel anytime.

Want to learn more?

Select a subject to preview related courses: Math

History

English

ACT/SAT

Science

Business

Psychology

AP

Sources & references used in this article:

The “ligamentization” process in anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction: what happens to the human graft? A systematic review of the literature by S Claes, P Verdonk, R Forsyth… – … American journal of …, 2011 – journals.sagepub.com

Tendons and ligaments: a morphological and biochemical comparison by D Amiel, C Frank, F Harwood, J Fronek… – Journal of …, 1983 – Wiley Online Library

Incidence of subsequent injury to either knee within 5 years after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction with patellar tendon autograft by KD Shelbourne, T Gray, M Haro – The American journal of …, 2009 – journals.sagepub.com

Tenogenic differentiation of stem cells for tendon repair—what is the current evidence? by PPY Lui, YF Rui, M Ni, KM Chan – … of tissue engineering and …, 2011 – Wiley Online Library

What are the validated animal models for tendinopathy? by PPY Lui, N Maffulli, C Rolf… – … of medicine & science in …, 2011 – Wiley Online Library