Anatomy of the anterior cruciate ligament

Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2006 Mar;14(3):204-13. doi: 10.1007/s00167-005-0679-9. Epub 2005 Oct 19.


The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a band of dense connective tissue which courses from the femur to the tibia. The ACL is a key structure in the knee joint, as it resists anterior tibial translation and rotational loads. When the knee is extended, the ACL has a mean length of 32 mm and a width of 7-12 mm. There are two components of the ACL, the anteromedial bundle (AMB) and the posterolateral bundle (PLB). They are not isometric with the main change being lengthening of the AMB and shortening of the PLB during flexion. The ACL has a microstructure of collagen bundles of multiple types (mostly type I) and a matrix made of a network of proteins, glycoproteins, elastic systems, and glycosaminoglycans with multiple functional interactions. The complex ultrastructural organization and abundant elastic system of the ACL allow it to withstand multiaxial stresses and varying tensile strains. The ACL is innervated by posterior articular branches of the tibial nerve and is vascularized by branches of the middle genicular artery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / anatomy & histology*
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / physiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Collagen / ultrastructure
  • Elastic Tissue / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / ultrastructure
  • Glycoconjugates / metabolism
  • Glycosaminoglycans / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mechanoreceptors / ultrastructure


  • Glycoconjugates
  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Collagen