Anatomy, function, and rehabilitation of the popliteus musculotendinous complex

John Nyland, Narusha Lachman, Yavuz Kocabey, Joseph Brosky, Remziye Altun, David Caborn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


We present a clinical commentary of existing evidence regarding popliteus musculotendinous complex anatomy, biomechanics, muscle activation, and kinesthesia as they relate to functional knee joint rehabilitation. The popliteus appears to act as a dynamic guidance system for monitoring and controlling subtle transverse- and frontal-plane knee joint movements, controlling anterior-posterior lateral meniscus movement, unlocking and internally rotating the knee joint (tibia) during flexion initiation, assisting with 3-dimensional dynamic lower extremity postural stability during single-leg stance, preventing forward femoral dislocation on the tibia during flexed-knee stance, and providing for postural equilibrium adjustments during standing. These functions may be most important during mid-range knee flexion when capsuloligamentous structures are unable to function optimally. Because the popliteus musculotendinous complex has attachments that approximate the borders of both collateral ligaments, it has the potential for providing instantaneous 3-dimensional kinesthetic feedback of both medial and lateral tibiofemoral joint compartment function. Enhanced popliteus function as a kinesthetic knee joint monitor acting in synergy with dynamic hip muscular control of femoral internal rotation and adduction, and ankle subtalar muscular control of tibial abduction-external rotation or adduction-internal rotation, may help to prevent athletic knee joint injuries and facilitate recovery during rehabilitation by assisting the primary sagittal plane dynamic knee joint stabilization provided by the quadriceps femoris, hamstrings, and gastrocnemius.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-179
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2005


  • Knee
  • Lateral meniscus
  • Lower extremity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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