Background: Elongation of ligaments during early mobilization after reconstruction may be associated with decreased stability. We evaluated elongation of the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) before and after lateral ligament reconstruction within a physiologic range of motion with protected and unprotected, isolated dorsiflexion/plantarflexion range of motion.
Materials and methods: Six fresh frozen cadaver legs were used with the ATFL meticulously dissected. A differential variable reluctance transducer (DVRT) was spaced to span the course of the ATFL using consistent placement points based on previous reports. Elongation was measured in a load frame with protected motion of 30 degrees plantarflexion and 10 degrees dorsiflexion for the intact and sectioned ATFL and for the repaired specimen with and without protected motion. The proximal DVRT anchor point was detached for sectioning and repair of the ATFL and replaced at the same position. Testing was 1000 cycles at 1 Hz for the repaired protected specimen and 10 cycles at 1 Hz for all other stages.
Results: Initial elongation in the unprotected, repaired group was significantly higher than initial elongation in the intact (p < 0.01), sectioned (p = 0.02), and repaired, protected (p < 0.01) groups. Final elongation in the unprotected repaired group was also higher than final elongation in all other groups (p < 0.01 for all comparisons).
Conclusion: The use of protected range of motion of the ankle after lateral ankle ligament reconstruction was not associated with elongation of the ATFL. The ATFL elongated significantly by comparison without protected dorsiflexion/plantarflexion.
Clinical relevance: The study provides biomechanical support for the safety of early protected dorsiflexion/plantarflexion range of motion after Broström reconstruction.