Preferential loading of the ACL compared to the MCL during landing: A novel in sim approach yields the multi-planar mechanism of dynamic valgus during ACL injury

Carmen E. Quatman, Ata Kiapour, Constantine K. Demetropoulos, Ali Kiapour, Samuel Clayton Wordeman, Jason W. Levine, Vijay K. Goel, Timothy E. Hewett

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives: Strong biomechanical and epidemiologic evidence associates knee valgus collapse with isolated non-contact ACL injury. However, the predominance of isolated non-contact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries is challenging for clinicians and researchers to explain, as the medial collateral ligament (MCL) has been reported to be the primary restraint against knee valgus. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relative ACL to MCL strain patterns during physiologic simulations of a wide range of high-risk dynamic landing scenarios. We hypothesized that both knee abduction and internal tibial rotation moments would generate a disproportionate increase in ACL strain relative to MCL strain. However, the physiologic range of knee abduction and internal tibial rotation moments that produce ACL injuries would not be of sufficient magnitude to consistently compromise MCL integrity. Methods: A novel in sim approach was used to test our hypotheses. 17 cadaveric lower extremities (45 ± 7 years, 9 female & 8 male) were tested to simulate a broad range of landing conditions following a jump under anterior tibial shear, knee abduction and internal tibial rotation. Specimens were oriented to simulate lower extremity posture during ground strike while landing from a jump. Landing was simulated by applying an impulsive axial impact load (simulating ground reaction forces) under simulated muscle forces. ACL and MCL strains were quantified using DVRT displacement transducers arthroscopically placed across the ACL AM-bundle and sutured to the anterior/middle/posterior aspects of superficial MCL across the joint line. Specimens were tested until failure. Multiple paired and independent t-tests along with general linear models were used to investigate the changes in strain levels under each modes of loading. An extensively validated, detailed finite element model of the lower extremity was used to better interpret experimental findings. Results: ACL failure was generated in 15 of 17 specimens (88%). Increased anterior tibial shear force, and knee abduction and internal tibial rotation moments resulted in significantly higher ACL:MCL strain ratios (p<0.05) compared to landing under no applied external loads. Under all modes of single- and multi-planar loading, ACL:MCL strain ratio remained greater than 1.7, and relative ACL strain was significantly higher than relative MCL strain (p<0.003, Figure 1). Relative change in ACL strain was significantly greater under combined multi-planar loading compared to ACL strain under anterior tibial shear force (p=0.016), knee abduction (p=0.018) and internal tibial rotation (p<0.0005) moments alone. Conclusion: The tibiofemoral frontal plane loading mechanism has become a recent topic of debate as a contributing factor to non-contact ACL injuries. Both in vivo and video analyses studies indicate that increased knee abduction is associated with increased risk for ACL injury. The current findings demonstrates that while both the ACL and MCL resist knee valgus during landing, physiological magnitudes of the applied loads that lead to high ACL strain levels and injury were not sufficient to compromise MCL integrity. Further, these findings support multi-planar knee valgus collapse as a primary mechanism of non-contact ACL injury. This enhances our understanding of the non-contact ACL injury mechanism, and provides insight that can improve current risk screening and injury prevention strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalOrthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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