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Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1991 Jul;(268):161-78.

A sensory role for the cruciate ligaments.

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Department of Physiology, University of Umeå, Sweden.


Morphologic, physiologic, and clinical evidence for the sensory role of the cruciate ligaments is reviewed. The cruciate ligaments accommodate morphologically different sensory nerve endings (Ruffini endings, Pacinian corpuscles, Golgi tendon organlike endings, and free nerve endings) with different capabilities of providing the central nervous system with information not only about noxious and chemical events but also about characteristics of movements and position-related stretches of these ligaments. A survey of available data reveals that low threshold joint-ligament receptor (i.e., mechanoreceptor) afferents evoke only weak and rare effects in skeletomotor neurons (alpha-motor neurons), while they frequently and powerfully influence fusimotor neurons (gamma-motor neurons). The effects on the gamma-muscle-spindle system in the muscles around the knee are so potent that even stretches of the cruciate ligaments at relatively moderate loads (not noxious) may induce major changes in responses of the muscle spindle afferents. As the activity in the primary muscle spindle afferents modifies the stiffness in the muscles, the cruciate ligament receptors, via the gamma-muscle-spindle system, may participate in the regulation and preprogramming of the muscular stiffness around the knee joint and thereby of the knee joint stiffness. Thus, the sensory system of the cruciate ligaments is able to significantly contribute to the functional stability of the knee joint.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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