Top 10 Functions of Ligaments, Structure, Types, Diagram

Is Ligament an Organ?

The status of a ligament as an organ of the human body is still debated. It is due to the lack of a universally agreed-upon standard definition of what an organ is.

Before proceeding to answer this question and discussing the top 10 functions of ligaments, let’s define what a ligament is.

A ligament can be defined as a band of strong fibrous tissue that connects bones and cartilage together and performs various other functions.

Present throughout your body, there are different types of ligaments. And they usually join bones and cartilage end to end at the level of joints. It means they play a key role in the formation of joints.

To answer, “Is ligament an organ?”, let’s look at the definition of an organ from different sources.

The Free Dictionary gives several definitions of a ligament. Two of them are described below:

  • “A structure made up of a group of tissues to performs a specific function.”
  • “A differentiated part of a (living) organism that is assigned a particular task (in the body)”.

When you determine the status of the ligament in the light of the first definition, it may not justify itself as an organ. However, if you collectively deal with ligaments, particularly their types, their designation as an organ sounds somewhat logical.

Looking at the second definition, it successfully ranks as an organ, at least in the functional terms. That is, there are several functions of ligaments in the body.

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (OALD) defines an organ as: “A part of your body that has a particular purpose”.

The above definition of an organ from OALD also ranks it (ligament) as an organ. A ligament is a part of your body and it connects bones together. Right? It should be an organ.

Ligament as a Support and Sensory Organ:

Emmanuel Apergis (2013) claims ligaments to be simultaneously playing roles as static support and sensory organs, particularly referring to the carpal ligaments. Their sensory function is owed to rich innervation.

It basically is a tissue that performs the function of an organ in the body. And when you take all the bones collectively, they form a bone organ system.

Top 10 Functions of Ligaments

Forming Joints:

Joints allow different parts of your body (for example, limbs) to move in different directions. For the formation of a joint, bones need to be joined end to end and fastened with a flexible structure that can allow for movements.

And these structures are called ligaments.

While tendons connect muscles to bones, ligaments join one bone to another.

But a joint may not necessarily be movable. There do exist immovable joints. And, based on their structure, you can distinguish between three major categories of joints, i.e. fibrous, cartilaginous, and synovial.

The synovial joints are important, particularly, in terms of facilitating motion.

Allowing bones to rotate around or slide past each other, they produce the movements like rotation, extension (open), flexion (close), adduction (moving towards), and abduction (moving away).

A Connecting/Chain Link:

Though they do perform other jobs, the primary function of ligaments is to act as a connecting link between bones. In this capacity, they act as a chain link.

Don’t understand? For explanation, consider your arm from should till the fingertips as a chain. It is made up of several long and short bones, all of which are joined end to end at the point, called a joint. And a joint is formed with the help of ligaments.

Therefore, you can confidently call them chain links.

Flexibility:

Obviously, there would be something other to perform the job of the ligaments if they were not present in your body.

One of the ligament functions is to render a certain degree of flexibility to your body. Owing to this characteristic, you can easily bend your body at your waist along all directions.

Strength:

The ligaments are both flexible and strong, meaning they not only allow your joints to move freely but also keeps the bones strongly fastened together. So, you can run and indulge in immense physical exertion without the fear of the joints getting loosened.

Shape:

You’ve got an attractive physique, haven’t you? It is partly because several pieces of bones are tightly held together – with the help of the ligaments – in a fascinating and practically important arrangement.

Movement:

In the absence of the ligaments, either you would have the bone connections too weak to walk, or your body would be jointless and rigid.

So, it is due to different functions of ligaments that you can make a variety of movements with strength, stability, and confidence.

Stabilization of Motion:

You do not stagger while walking or running. Do you? It is because, in addition to allowing your body to produce different movements, the ligaments also make your motion stable.

Limiting/Restring Motion:

It is an amazing thing about ligaments that they simultaneously allow for and restrict motion. Take an example of your elbow joint. You can only touch your shoulder with the hand on the front but not on the back.

This is a clear example of ligaments limiting the motion of joints in certain direction/s only.

Stability of Posture:

You can maintain a stable posture of your body. It is partly due to the structural and functional importance of ligaments. Using joints – formed by ligaments – you can move different parts to balance the weight of your smart or bulky body on two feet.

Sensory Function:

The richly innervated carpal ligaments give rise to an entirely new consideration of the functions of the ligaments as end organs of mechanoreception. This rich innervation highlights their role in sensory perception.

About the Author

Posted by: M. Isaac / Senior writer

A graduate in biological sciences and a PhD scholar (NCBA&E University, Lahore), M. Isaac combines his vast experience with a keen and critical eye to create practical and inherently engaging content on the human body. His background as a researcher and instructor at a secondary school enables him to best understand the needs of the beginner level learners and the amateur readers and educate them about how their body works, and how they can adopt a healthier lifestyle.

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