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J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2002 Jun;12(3):177-82.

Cruciate ligament reflexes.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery M, Copenhagen University Hospital Bispebjerg, Copenhagen, Denmark.


The idea of muscular reflexes elicited from sensory nerves of the cruciate ligaments is more than 100 years old, but the existence of such reflexes has not been proven until the recent two decades. First in animal experiments, a muscular excitation could be elicited in the hamstrings when the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) was pulled, and tension in the ligament caused activity of the gamma motor neurones of the muscles around the knee. Impulses from the sensory nerves in ACL were activated during motion of the knee, in particular overstretching and combined extension and rotation. In humans, proprioception in the knee is decreased after ACL rupture. By mechanical or electrical stimulation of the ACL, an excitation in the hamstrings muscles can be elicited. During muscular activity, stimulation of the ACL or PCL results in a clear inhibition of the ongoing activity, both during static isometric and isokinetic muscle work, and also during dynamic activity (gait). This inhibitory reflex subjectively resembled giving way. The latency of the reflex was short in animals (about 3 ms) and long in humans (60-120 ms), probably caused by differences in the experimental setup and between species. The long latency in humans makes it unlikely that it is a directly protective reflex. Instead it may be involved in the updating of motor programs. Further research may characterize the reflex in details and map its pathways. The existence of this reflex indicate that the cruciate ligaments have an afferent function, which influences knee dynamics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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