The role of axial compressive and quadriceps forces in noncontact anterior cruciate ligament injury: A cadaveric study

Simon J. Wall, David M. Rose, E. Grant Sutter, Stephen M. Belkoff, Barry P. Boden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background: Compressive and quadriceps forces have been associated with noncontact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. The purpose of this study was to quantify the relative importance of each load component during noncontact ACL injury.Hypothesis: We hypothesized that the introduction of a quadriceps force lowers the axial compressive force threshold to produce ACL injury. Study Design: Controlled laboratory study. Methods: Six pairs of fresh-frozen cadaveric knees, flexed to 15°, were loaded with axial compression (group A) or compression with a quadriceps force (group B) until failure. All specimens underwent axial compressive loading under displacement control with a time to peak load of 50 msec. The initial displacement of the MTS actuator was 8 mm and was increased in 2-mm increments with successive tests until catastrophic damage of the joint occurred. Failure was determined by a combination of clinical specimen examination and force-displacement data analysis and by dissection and direct visualization after failure was recognized. Differences in failure load between groups were examined using a paired t test (significance, P ≤.05).Results: In group A, there were 2 isolated ACL injuries, 2 ACL ruptures combined with a tibial plateau fracture, and 2 isolated tibial plateau fractures. In group B, there were 5 isolated ACL ruptures and 1 tibial plateau fracture. There was a significant difference in the average failure load between groups A and B: 10 832 N (95% confidence interval [CI], 9743-11 604 N) and 6119 N (95% CI, 4335-7903 N), respectively. Conclusion: Isolated compressive forces displayed an ability to produce an ACL injury in this cadaveric model, but the addition of a quadriceps load significantly reduced the compressive force required for ACL injury.Clinical Relevance: Compressive and quadriceps forces contribute to noncontact ACL injury and should be taken into account when developing ACL injury prevention programs and rehabilitation after ACL reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)568-573
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012


  • anterior cruciate ligament rupture
  • knee injury
  • quadriceps
  • tibiofemoral compression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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