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J Biomech. 1998 Dec;31(12):1127-36.

Ligaments and articular contact guide passive knee flexion.

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  • 1Oxford Orthopaedic Engineering Centre and Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, UK.


The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that the coupled features of passive knee flexion are guided by articular contact and by the isometric fascicles of the ACL, PCL and MCL. A three-dimensional mathematical model of the knee was developed, in which the articular surfaces in the lateral and medial compartments and the isometric fascicles in the ACL, PCL and MCL were represented as five constraints in a one degree-of-freedom parallel spatial mechanism. Mechanism analysis techniques were used to predict the path of motion of the tibia relative to the femur. Using a set of anatomical parameters obtained from a cadaver specimen, the model predicts coupled internal rotation and ab/adduction with flexion. These predictions correspond well to measurements of the cadaver specimen's motion. The model also predicts posterior translation of contact on the tibia with flexion. Although this is a well-known feature of passive knee flexion, the model predicts more translation than has been reported from experiments in the literature. Modelling of uncertainty in the anatomical parameters demonstrated that the discrepancy between theoretical predictions and experimental measurement can be attributed to parameter sensitivity of the model. This study shows that the ligaments and articular surfaces work together to guide passive knee motion. A principal implication of the work is that both articular surface geometry and ligament geometry must be preserved or replicated by surgical reconstruction and replacement procedures to ensure normal knee kinematics and by extension, mechanics.

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