Difference Between Tendon and Ligament

To know the difference between tendon and ligament, we must be familiar with what they actually are and what are their functions in the human body. Let’s explore.

Tendons and Ligaments

Tendons and ligaments are part of the skeletal and muscular systems of the human body. These are connective tissue as they connect different parts of the body. The tendons are cord-like, strong and inelastic structures that connect bone to muscle and the ligaments are elastic structures that connect bones to other bones in our body. Both tendons and ligaments are composed of living cells and contain numerous collagen fibres and are seen as dense-granular connective tissues that function as connecting and anchoring various organs.

Difference Between Tendon and Ligament Presented Diagramatically

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Functions and Problems Associated


Tendons and ligaments are known to provide skeletal and muscular support to the body. How do they perform it? 

  • Tendon- Tendons transfer force by the muscle to the bone so they play an important part in the movement of our body. Tendons are present throughout the body, from the head to neck and all the way down to the feet. Sometimes, the force applied by a tendon is even 5 times our body weight. Sometimes, the overuse and repetitive motion of our body parts such as hands, biceps, shoulder, ankles and knees cause problems like tendonitis. It is a condition developed with sudden force and strained or torn tendon fibres. It can be caused due to different activities like cleaning, golfing, throwing balls, bad posture, exercising carelessly, etc. 

  • Ligament- Now, talking about ligaments, ligaments are also musculoskeletal systems present as criss-cross bands that attach bone to another bone. For example, a knee consists of femur and tibia/fibula bones that have patella or kneecap in between. Different ligaments connect these two bones together and if it is damaged, it hurts and we look for strengthening the ligaments of our knees. Ligaments are not like bones as they cannot attach and heal itself. Ligaments are long collagen fibres that form a band of tough fibrous connective tissue and are elastic in nature. So, these can stretch and provide flexibility but if they are stretched beyond a certain point, ligaments become over stretched and compromise the integrity; it may cause problems like ligament tears that cause inflammation, swelling, pain and bruising. The recovery of a torn ligament takes several weeks as they don’t regenerate themselves.

  • Both tendon and ligament are extra strong and dense tissues and both are located near joints. The point where one bone meets up with another bone is called a joint. It takes a long time to heal a tendon or a ligament if it is damaged as both are made up of collagen fibres which are avascular, meaning it's hard to get nutrients due to lack of blood vessels. Despite various functional similarities we can differentiate tendon and ligament depending on various aspects. We will distinguish and compare tendons and ligaments further.

Distinguish between Tendon and Ligament

Tendon Vs Ligament can be better understood with the following tabular characteristics. 

Tendon Vs Ligament

Tendon 

Ligament

Tendons bind muscle to bone

Ligaments bind bone to bone

It connects the end of the muscles to any part of the bone.

It connects the ends of the bones only at joints. 

It is a tough and inelastic structure.

It is highly elastic and flexible.

There is usually one tendon per muscle.

Many ligaments are usually present per joint.

It has comparatively more collagen content. 

It has comparatively lesser collagen content. 

Its proteoglycan content is also lesser than that in ligaments.

Its proteoglycan content is comparatively more than that in tendons.

The colour of the tendons is white.

Ligaments are found yellow in colour.

Tendons have fibroblasts present in a continuous row.

Ligaments have scattered fibroblasts.

Tendons have a heavy blood supply.

In comparison, ligaments have a poor blood supply.

Fibres are found in the form of compact and parallel bundles.

Here, fibres are not arranged parallelly but are compactly packed.

No such classification of tendons exists. 

Ligaments are classified into three namely articular, remnant and peritoneal ligaments. 

Example- the Achilles tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. Achilles is the largest tendon in our body.

Example- The anterior cruciate ligament known as ACL attaches the thigh bone to the shinbone, which helps in stabilizing the knee joint.


FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Differentiate tendon and ligament

The major tendon and ligament difference is that the tendon connects a bone to a muscle whereas a ligament connects a bone to another bone. Both play their roles in the musculoskeletal system of the human body.

2. What is the difference between tendon and ligament and cartilage?

A band of tissue connecting muscle to bone is called tendon; an elastic band of tissue connecting bone to bone that also provides stability to the joint is called a ligament. Soft padding with a gel-like sponge between bones that plays a role in protecting joints and facilitating movement is called cartilage.

3. Can a torn ligament heal itself?

A torn ligament takes time to heal as it consists of avascular collagen fibres; it may take several weeks to heal and it requires providing proper rest to the damaged ligament of that particular body part.

4. What is fascia?

Fascia is different from tendon and ligament as it connects muscle to muscle. It is present as a sheet or band of connective tissue and collagen beneath the skin. It helps in attaching, stabilizing, enclosing and separating muscles with other internal organs. Fascia forms into ingrained patterns due to poor posture, repetitive movements and lack of flexibility.

5. How do tendons get stressed?

By overloading or overstressing it causes micro tearing and forms tendon injuries. With repeated stress, it is painful and strained areas include elbows, shoulder, knee and ankle that are present with joints. It is also referred to as tendonitis. Its healing requires no more injuries by changing regular activities and giving rest to the body part. Overstraining should be avoided and rehabbing or exercising specific postures is necessary under the supervision of a medical practitioner.