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Joints and ligaments
Other Terms: Body, Ligaments of the body
Ligaments come in a variety of forms and are integral parts of joints (ligare means to bind). They can serve as intrinsic binding structures constituting the substance of the joint itself, or as extrinsic supporting bands that stabilize joints while limiting their range of motion. While ligaments take on a variety of forms, they are generally described as dense irregular to dense regular collagenous connective tissue structures that bind one bone to another bone. The major exception to this rule is the occurrence of fibroelastic ligaments in certain locations. Ligaments are noncontractile tissues and they are typically damaged when they are stretched beyond their strength. Damage to these connective tissue structures is referred to as a sprain. Like muscle injuries, ligament injuries can be graded. Grade I sprains range from a stretch without a tear to a 20 percent tear of the ligament’s collagen fibers. A grade II sprain involves tearing 20 to 75 percent of the ligament. Grade III sprains involve damage of more than 75 percent of the ligament’s collagen to complete tearing of the ligament. Severe ligament injuries should be taken care of immediately, as they can lead to major joint instability and malfunction.