Ligaments are sometimes confused with tendons, but they differ in a couple of important ways. Tendons connect muscles to bones, and ligaments connect bones to bones. Tendons become strained; ligaments become sprained.
Ligaments are composed of collagen and some elastic fibers, and the main role of ligaments is to stabilize joints and guide the direction of movement of that joint.
If enough force is placed on a joint in a direction it is not meant to move, ligaments can become sprained or torn. The most common acute injury in dance is a sprained ankle as a result of extreme inversion, in which one or more of the ligaments connecting the fibula to the talus and/or calcaneus of the foot are injured.
Another common area of ligament injury is the knee, such as in the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). ACL injuries have risen over the past decade as dance choreography has become increasingly turned in and athletic.
Ligament injuries can be difficult to cope with as a dancer. Because of their make-up (mostly collagen-like fibers), ligaments do not like to be stretched. They do not contain the elastic and regenerative properties that muscles and tendons share, resulting in an injury that doesn’t heal easily. Many serious ligament injuries result in surgery, especially in the case of partial or complete tears.
- The Dance Training Project’s Monika Volkmar dissects ligament pathologies present in “super bendy” dancers, and strategizes ways to strengthen and support the surrounding muscles.
- On Dance Advantage, I wrote a three part series called Meet Your Feet. In part three, I discuss sprains and strains, with a brief discussion on injury management
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