The function of the hip capsular ligaments: a quantitative report

Arthroscopy. 2008 Feb;24(2):188-95. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2007.08.024. Epub 2007 Nov 26.


Purpose: Our purpose was to analyze the anatomy and quantitative contributions of the hip capsular ligaments.

Methods: The stabilizing roles of the medial and lateral arms of the iliofemoral ligament, pubofemoral ligament, and ischiofemoral ligament were examined in 12 matched pairs of fresh-frozen cadaveric hips (6 male and 6 female hips). The motion at the hip joint was measured in internal and external rotation through ranges of motion from 30 degrees flexion to 10 degrees extension along a neutral swing path. The motion was standardized by use of frame stabilization and motion tracking.

Results: There is a clear and consistent ligamentous pattern within the hip corresponding to a distinct function and contribution to internal and external rotation. On releasing the ischiofemoral ligament, the greatest gain in range of motion was that of internal rotation. The largest increase of motion by releasing the pubofemoral ligament was observed in external rotation, especially during extension. The release of the medial and lateral arms of the iliofemoral ligament each gave the greatest increase of motion in external rotation, with the lateral arm release providing more range of motion in flexion and in a neutral position. The lateral arm release also showed a significant motion increase in internal rotation, primarily in extension.

Conclusions: The ischiofemoral ligament controls internal rotation in flexion and extension. The lateral arm of the iliofemoral ligament has dual control of external rotation in flexion and both internal and external rotation in extension. The pubofemoral ligament controls external rotation in extension with contributions from the medial and lateral arms of the iliofemoral ligament. Together, these findings can have significant clinical applications.

Clinical relevance: When abnormal muscular and osseous pathology can be eliminated as a cause of instability or restrictive range of motion, the understanding of the independent functions of the hip ligaments will aid in defining accurate assessment and nonsurgical and arthroscopic treatment techniques.

MeSH terms

  • Cadaver
  • Female
  • Hip Joint / anatomy & histology*
  • Hip Joint / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Ligaments, Articular / anatomy & histology*
  • Ligaments, Articular / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Rotation