Ligaments link bones to other bones and provide support to joints. They allow a normal range of movement to occur within a joint, but prevent unwanted movement that would render the joint unstable. In order to fulfill this function ligaments must possess immense mechanical tensile strength.

Ligaments are classified as dense connective tissue, and they consist of a protein substance called collagen. The organisation of collagen fibres gives the ligament its tensile strength.

Another function of ligaments is to provide input to the brain that allows a person to know what position the joints are in, without having to look. This helps to perform the complex coordinated activities needed for sport.

A normal ligament consists of:

• 90% Type 1 collagen
• 9% Type 3 collagen
• 1% fibroblast cells (the cells that produce collagen)
Type 1 collagen is mature collagen tissue and has the greatest tensile strength. Type 3 collagen is immature collagen tissue and does not provide a great deal of tensile strength to the ligament.

After being laid down by fibroblast cells it takes approximately three months for Type 3 collagen to mature into Type 1 collagen. As with other cells in the body, this process of renewal occurs continually.


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