The effects of knee motion and external loading on the length of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL): a kinematic study

J Biomech Eng. 1991 May;113(2):208-14. doi: 10.1115/1.2891236.


A six-degrees-of-freedom mechanical linkage device was designed and used to study the unconstrained motion of ten intact human cadaver knees. The knees were subjected to externally applied varus and valgus (V-V) moments up to 14 N-m as well as anterior and posterior (A-P) loads up to 100 N. Tests were done at four knee flexion angles; 0, 30, 45, and 90 deg. Significant coupled axial tibial rotation was found, up to 21.0 deg for V-V loading (at 90 deg of flexion) and 14.2 deg for A-P loading (at 45 deg of flexion). Subsequently, the knees were dissected and the locations of the insertion sites to the femur and tibia for the anteromedial (AM), posterolateral (PL), and intermediate (IM) portions of the ACL were identified. The distances between the insertion sites for all external loading conditions were calculated. In the case when the external load was zero, the AM portion of the ACL lengthened with knee flexion, while the PL portion shortened and the intermediate (IM) portion did not change in length. With the application of 14 N-m valgus moment, the PL and IM portions of the ACL lengthened significantly more than the AM portion (p less than 0.001). With the application of 100 N anterior load, the AM portion lengthened slightly less than the PL portion, which lengthened slightly less than the IM portion (p less than 0.005). In general, the amount of lengthening of the three portions of the ACL during valgus and anterior loading was observed to increase with knee flexion angle (p less than 0.001).

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / anatomy & histology
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Reference Values