Better to Break a Bone Than to Tear a Ligament or Tendon

In physiotherapy, we deal with both broken bones and torn ligaments a regular basis. But we noticed that patients tend to protect one more than the other. For example, when playing a sport like a football, patients more often than not choose to protect a shin-bone (shin guards) than to wear a knee guard to support our ligament or tendons there.  

Champion Chris Weidman, red, checks a leg kick by Anderson Silva, blue, breaking Silva’s leg during their Middleweight Championship bout during UFC 168 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas Saturday, December 28, 2013. Weidman won due to injury to Silva. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

If you had a choice between breaking a bone or tearing a ligament; breaking bone seems like a more painful and dramatic option to choose from. Nevertheless, we really ought to protect our ligaments and tendons also because they are more difficult to heal than a bone when damaged.

Bones Heal Better Than Ligaments and Tendon

Breaking any of bone, ligament or tendon is a painful thing.  We should avoid them as much as possible. But why do bones heal better than ligaments/tendons? The short answer is because the bone has plenty of blood supply to it compared to ligament/tendon, which has very little and ligament/tendons are more complex to rebuild. Wounds generally heal more slowly if blood can’t circulate properly. The blood circulation affects the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the tissue which are necessary for tissue healing.

Plenty of Blood Supply

Having good blood supply or being highly vascularized (has many blood vessels) is important for growth and regeneration. Blood brings with it the building materials that the body needs as well as the energy required to build up its parts. In the case of bone, it is highly vascularized compared to ligaments and tendon, which barely has any. Tip: Next when you are eating chicken wings, take a look at the tendons.

More Complex Structures

Bones also heal more quickly is simply because they are less complex to build compared to ligaments and tendon. Designed to take a lot of stress along its lengths, there is a lot of effort required to align the ligament and tendon building materials in a specific way.

So the next time you think about protecting or preventing broken bones, give a thought to your other ligaments and tendons in your joints.

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