The Anterolateral Ligament: An Anatomic, Radiographic, and Biomechanical Analysis

Am J Sports Med. 2015 Jul;43(7):1606-15. doi: 10.1177/0363546515578253. Epub 2015 Apr 17.


Background: Recent publications have described significant variability in the femoral attachment and overall anatomy of the anterolateral ligament (ALL). Additionally, there is a paucity of data describing its structural properties.

Purpose: Quantitative data characterizing the anatomic and radiographic locations and the structural properties of the ALL may be used to guide graft selection and placement and to facilitate the future development of an evidence-based approach to ALL reconstructions.

Study design: Descriptive laboratory study.

Methods: Identification of the ALL was performed by a combined outside-in and inside-out anatomic dissection of 15 nonpaired fresh-frozen cadaveric knees. Quantitative anatomic relationships were calculated using a 3-dimensional coordinate measuring device. Measurements on anteroposterior (AP) and lateral radiographs were obtained by use of a picture archiving and communications system program. Structural properties were characterized during a single pull-to-failure test using a tensile testing machine. All anatomic, radiographic, and biomechanical measurements were reported as mean values and 95% CIs.

Results: The ALL was identified as a thickening of the lateral capsule coming under tension with an applied internal rotation at 30° of flexion. Its femoral attachment was located 4.7 mm (95% CI, 3.5-5.9 mm) posterior and proximal to the fibular collateral ligament attachment and coursed anterodistally to its anterolateral tibial attachment approximately midway between the center of the Gerdy tubercle and the anterior margin of the fibular head; the tibial attachment was located 24.7 mm (95% CI, 23.3-26.2 mm) and 26.1 mm (95% CI, 23.9-28.3 mm) from each structure, respectively. On the AP radiographic view, the ALL originated on the femur 22.3 mm (95% CI, 20.7-23.9 mm) proximal to the joint line and inserted on the tibia 13.1 mm (95% CI, 12.3-13.9 mm) distal to the lateral tibial plateau. On the lateral view, the femoral attachment was 8.4 mm (95% CI, 6.8-10.0 mm) posterior and proximal to the lateral epicondyle. The tibial attachment was 19.0 mm (95% CI, 17.1-20.9 mm) posterior and superior to the center of the Gerdy tubercle. The mean maximum load was 175 N (95% CI, 139-211 N) and the stiffness was 20 N/mm (95% CI, 16-25 N/mm). Failure occurred by 4 distinct mechanisms: ligamentous tear at the femoral (n = 4) or tibial (n = 1) attachment, midsubstance tear (n = 4), and bony avulsion of the tibial attachment (Segond fracture; n = 6).

Conclusion: Defined ALL attachment locations can be reproducibly identified with intraoperative landmarks or radiographs. The biomechanical analysis suggests that most traditional soft tissue grafts are sufficient for ALL reconstruction.

Clinical relevance: The ALL was consistently found in all knees. Segond fractures appear to occur primarily from the avulsion of the ALL.

Keywords: anatomy; anterolateral ligament; knee; rotatory instability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cadaver
  • Dissection
  • Epiphyses / surgery
  • Femur / anatomy & histology*
  • Femur / surgery
  • Fibula / anatomy & histology*
  • Fibula / surgery
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / surgery
  • Knee Joint / anatomy & histology*
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Ligaments, Articular / anatomy & histology
  • Ligaments, Articular / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Tibia / anatomy & histology*
  • Tibia / surgery
  • Tibial Fractures / surgery
  • Transplants