On the basis of earlier reported data on the in vitro kinematics of passive knee-joint motions of four knee specimens, the length changes of ligament fiber bundles were determined by using the points of insertion on the tibia and femur. The kinematic data and the insertions of the ligaments were obtained by using Roentgenstereophotogrammetry. Different fiber bundles of the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments and the medial and lateral collateral ligaments were identified. On the basis of an assumption for the maximal strain of each ligament fiber bundle during the experiments, the minimal recruitment length and the probability of recruitment were defined and determined. The motions covered the range from extension to 95 degrees flexion and the loading conditions included internal or external moments of 3 Nm and anterior or posterior forces of 30N. The ligament length and recruitment patterns were found to be consistent for some ligament bundles and less consistent for other ligament bundles. The most posterior bundle of each ligament was recruited in extension and the lower flexion angles, whereas the anterior bundle was recruited for the higher flexion angles. External rotation generally recruited the collateral ligaments, while internal rotation recruited the cruciate ligaments. However, the anterior bundle of the posterior cruciate ligament was recruited with external rotation at the higher flexion angles. At the lower flexion angles, the anterior cruciate and the lateral collateral ligaments were recruited with an anterior force. The recruitment of the posterior cruciate ligament with a posterior force showed that neither its most anterior nor its most posterior bundle was recruited at the lower flexion angles. Hence, the posterior restraint must have been provided by the intermediate fiber bundles, which were not considered in the experiment. At the higher flexion angles, the anterior bundles of the anterior cruciate ligament and the posterior cruciate ligament were found to be recruited with anterior and posterior forces, respectively. The minimal recruitment length and the recruitment probability of ligament fiber bundles are useful parameters for the evaluation of ligament length changes in those experiments where no other method can be used to determine the zero strain lengths, ligament strains and tensions.

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