Muscle-ligament interactions at the knee during walking

Proc Inst Mech Eng H. 1991;205(1):11-8. doi: 10.1243/PIME_PROC_1991_205_256_02.


A two-dimensional mathematical model of the knee is used with gait analysis to calculate muscle, cruciate ligament and tibio-femoral contact forces developed at the knee during normal level walking. Ten normal adult subjects--four females and six males--participated. The knee model is based upon a four-bar linkage comprising the femur, tibia and two cruciate ligaments. It takes account of the rolling and sliding of the femur on the tibia during flexion/extension and the changes in direction of the ligaments and muscle tendons. We considered forces transmitted by six elements: quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments, and tibio-femoral contact. The equations of mechanics can be used to determine the absolute values of only three of the knee forces simultaneously, so that twenty limiting solutions of three of the six forces were considered. A limiting solution was rejected if any of the three forces were negative, corresponding to compressive muscle or ligament forces, or tensile contact forces. These constraints always reduced and at times removed the redundancy of the knee structures. The high incidence of predicted single muscle activity, supported by electromyography, suggested that the ligaments play a significant role in load transmission during gait. The temporal patterns of muscle and ligament activity and ligament force magnitudes were sensitive to the choice of model parameters. The analysis showed that each of four possible minimum principles of muscle selection--minimal muscle force, muscle stress, ligament force and contact force--was unlikely to be valid throughout the walking cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology*
  • Ligaments, Articular / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Walking / physiology*