The two injuries are very alike, and this is what causes a confusing overlap between the two. A simple way to destining between the two is that a tendon attaches a muscle to bone whereas a ligament attaches bone to bone.
However, both injuries have similar symptoms, and this is what causes most people problems when trying to distinguish between the two.
Another reason these two injuries get mixed up is that both ligaments and tendons are made up of connective tissue called collagen fibres.
However, how this collagen is formed together is very different in each.
In a tendon the fibres are parallel, allowing for more elasticity which if you think about the way muscles work and the amount of movement involved, this makes them more suited to connecting the muscle to the bone.
The fibres in ligaments however crisscross to keep the ligament stable and ultimately to support, stabilise and strengthen the bone joints.
So, in order to understand these injuries better and learn how to treat them you need a better understanding of the injuries.
Although ligaments are strong and rigid by nature, sudden forces and strains can cause tears and ruptures, this damage occurs when the fibres are torn.
Because of the lack of blood supply to the tissue, sometimes tears become permanent which can end in their removal.
Also, if a ligament is stretched past a certain point, it can result in the ligament never returning to its original state.
An Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear is the most common sport-related injury to the ligament, learn all you need to know about ACL tears in our guide.
Ligament injuries can be treated through the use of a knee brace or support, however depending on the severity of the injury and the if you planned activity has potential to place a high amount of stress on the knee then a high supporting knee brace such as the Donjoy Armor with Fourcepoint.
Similarly, to ligaments, if over strained tendons can become damaged and even snap.
A partially torn tendon will cause swelling and discomfort but can be healed over time, whereas a clean break will cause a complete loss of movement and potentially permanent damage.
A common tendon injury which athletes suffer is damage to the Achilles tendon, which connects the heel to the muscle in your lower leg. This injury will be caused by over strain or improper footwear.
Achilles tendon can best be prevented by sufficiently warming up before any vigorous activity additionally wearing supports designed specifically for the area will aid prevention.
Tendonitis is another common injury which sees inflammation and swelling of the tendon causing pain and stiffness and will be caused through over straining of the tendon.
The best treatment for an injured tendon would be to initially use an ice pack to reduce the swelling, whilst keeping the injured area elevated.
Any serious damage or tears may require a splint in order to aid the haling process alongside using taping and strapping to help stabilise the area.
In order to prevent damage to tendons, supports and braces can be used in order to give support to a vulnerable area as well as offering relief from an ongoing injury.
Distinguishing Between Ligament & Tendon Injuries
It can be very difficult to distinguish between a ligament and a tendon injury, a way to get a definite answer would be to seek medical advice by visiting your doctor, who may offer you an X-ray.
A key thing to remember is to not leave any injury untreated to prevent further damage, this can be done through a range of product such as a supports and braces, taping and strapping and cold therapy treatments.
Additionally, re-evaluating your warm-up and cool-down techniques and potentially working with a physiotherapist during rehabilitation are both methods to prevent a recurrence of the injury.