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Tendon vs. Ligament: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 9, 2023
Tendons connect muscles to bones, enabling movement; ligaments connect bones to bones, stabilizing joints.

Key Differences

Tendons and ligaments are both vital components of the musculoskeletal system, though they serve distinct purposes. Tendons, primarily made of collagen, play a crucial role in facilitating movement by attaching muscles to bones. Whenever you flex or move a muscle, the tendon is responsible for transmitting the force from that muscle to the bone, allowing movement to occur.
On the other hand, ligaments serve a more stabilizing function. They are strong, flexible bands that hold bones together at the joints. Ligaments ensure that bones maintain their correct alignment, especially during movement. Their primary purpose is to prevent bones from moving too far or in the wrong direction, providing stability and preventing joint injuries.
While both tendons and ligaments have a similar composition, primarily consisting of collagen fibers, their structural arrangement varies. Tendons typically exhibit parallel collagen fibers that can handle a lot of tension, suiting their role in transmitting muscular forces. Ligaments, however, have a more interwoven structure, which provides strength and stability in multiple directions.
In essence, both tendons and ligaments are indispensable for bodily movement and stability. However, while tendons act as intermediaries between muscles and bones, facilitating motion, ligaments work mainly to connect bones to other bones, ensuring joint stability.

Comparison Chart

Primary Function

Facilitates movement
Provides stability


Muscle to bone
Bone to bone


Primarily collagen
Primarily collagen


Parallel collagen fibers
Interwoven fibers

Role in Body

Transmits muscle forces
Stabilizes joints

Tendon and Ligament Definitions


A flexible cord of collagen tissue.
The Achilles tendon is prone to injury.


Prevents excessive movement.
The ligament ensures the bones don't move out of place.


Facilitates joint movement.
The tendon in his arm pulled, enabling him to lift the weight.


Provides passive joint stabilization.
The ligament in her ankle kept the joint aligned.


Has a white, shiny appearance.
The surgeon identified the tendon based on its glossy texture.


Connects bones at a joint.
A torn ligament can lead to joint instability.


Can withstand tension.
A strained tendon can compromise movement.


Rich in collagen fibers.
The ligament's strength comes from its collagen content.


Attaches muscles to bones.
The tendon allows for efficient force transmission.


A band of tough, flexible tissue.
The anterior cruciate ligament is vital for knee stability.


A band of tough, inelastic fibrous tissue that connects a muscle with its bony attachment.


Are tendons and ligaments both made of collagen?

Yes, both tendons and ligaments are primarily composed of collagen.

What's the primary role of a ligament?

A ligament provides stability by connecting bones at a joint.

Can exercises strengthen tendons?

Yes, specific exercises can help improve tendon strength and health.

Which has a more interwoven structure: tendon or ligament?

Ligaments have a more interwoven structure compared to tendons.

Can you give an example of a well-known tendon?

The Achilles tendon, located at the back of the ankle, is a prominent example.

Which is more elastic: tendon or ligament?

Tendons are generally more elastic than ligaments.

What does a tendon primarily connect?

A tendon connects a muscle to a bone.

How are ligaments and arthritis connected?

Damaged ligaments can lead to abnormal joint movement, potentially causing arthritis.

Is ligament damage permanent?

Some ligament damage can heal, but severe injuries may have lasting effects.

Can you name a common ligament injury in athletes?

A common ligament injury in athletes is an ACL tear.

What happens if a tendon gets injured?

An injured tendon can lead to pain, swelling, and reduced movement.

What is tendonitis?

Tendonitis refers to the inflammation of a tendon.

Why do ligaments have an interwoven structure?

The interwoven structure provides strength and stability in multiple directions.

How do ligaments contribute to joint health?

Ligaments stabilize joints, preventing excessive movement and dislocations.

How are ligaments related to sprains?

A sprain occurs when ligaments are stretched or torn.

Why do tendons sometimes become inflamed?

Overuse, strain, or trauma can cause tendon inflammation.

Are there surgeries for ligament injuries?

Yes, certain ligament injuries, like an ACL tear, often require surgical intervention.

What's the texture of a tendon?

Tendons typically have a white, shiny, and fibrous texture.

How do tendons aid in movement?

Tendons transmit forces from muscles to bones, enabling movement.

Do tendons and ligaments heal at the same rate?

No, tendons typically have better blood supply and may heal faster than ligaments.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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