The cruciate ligaments were resected with their bony insertions during total knee arthroplasty carried out in 12 patients with severe rheumatoid or osteoarthritis. The ligaments were examined histologically and biomechanically, using ten specimens from healthy adults as a control. A significant difference was found in the tensile stiffness and viscoelastic properties of the ligaments between the arthritic and the control group. The ligaments in the rheumatoid knees had a distinctly inferior tensile strength compared with the osteoarthritic knees. Total knee replacement, which also replaces ligament function, should therefore be considered in severely damaged rheumatoid knees.