Soft tissue restraints to lateral patellar translation in the human knee

Am J Sports Med. 1998 Jan-Feb;26(1):59-65. doi: 10.1177/03635465980260012701.


The purpose of this investigation was to identify and quantify the soft tissue restraints, both medially and laterally, to lateral patellar translation. These restraints to lateral patellar translation at 20 degrees of knee flexion were tested biomechanically on a universal testing instrument in nine fresh-frozen cadaveric knees. After preconditioning the tissues, the patella of each intact knee was translated laterally to a distance at which a force of 200 N was recorded. This distance was used to translate the patella for the remaining structures to be sectioned. The contribution of each structure to the total restraining force was determined as the percent of the force to restrain the intact specimen by sectioning the restraints in a predetermined order. The contribution of each structure to the restraining force was defined as the difference between the restraining force before and after its sectioning. The medial patellofemoral ligament was found to be the primary restraint to lateral patellar translation at 20 degrees of flexion, contributing 60% of the total restraining force. The medial patellomeniscal ligament contributed 13% of the total force, and the lateral retinaculum contributed 10%. The medial patellotibial ligament and superficial fibers of the medial retinaculum were not functionally important in preventing lateral translation. The previously unrecognized contribution of the lateral retinaculum as a restraint to lateral patellar translation may shed new light on the failures of isolated lateral release for acute lateral dislocation of the patella.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cadaver
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability / physiopathology*
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology*
  • Ligaments, Articular / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Rotation