The objective of the present study was to investigate the in-vitro, coupled, three-dimensional load-displacement and flexibility characteristics of the human ankle joint complex consisting of the talocrural and the talocalcaneal joints and to determine the effects that sectioning of the anterior talofibular ligament has on these characteristics. Similar to other anatomical joints such as the knee and the intervertebral joint, the ankle joint complex was found to exhibit highly nonlinear load-displacement characteristics with the angular displacement approaching asymptotic values as the external load was increased. Therefore, a procedure of incremental linearization was used to derive the flexibility characteristics of this structure. According to this procedure, external loads were applied to the calcaneus in small increments and its resulting three dimensional displacements were recorded. The incremental flexibility coefficients were then derived by assuming linear load-displacement relationship for each increment. From the results obtained from fifteen human ankle specimens, it was evident that the ankle joint complex exhibit highly coupled flexibility and load-displacement characteristics. It was further concluded that the ankle joint complex is the most flexible in the neighborhood of the unloaded, neutral position and that all the flexibility coefficients of the structure decrease rapidly toward the extremes of the range of motion. Rupture of the anterior talofibular ligament was found to have a significant effect on the load-displacement and flexibility characteristics of the ankle joint complex. This effect was manifested as a change in the load-displacement characteristics and a large increase in the flexibility coefficients primarily in those corresponding to rotations in the transverse and the coronal plane. The results of the present study can provide the necessary data base for the development of quantitative diagnostic technique for identifying the site and the extent of injury to the collateral ligaments of the ankle.

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