The direct insertion of the ACL carries more load than the indirect insertion: An important consideration when performing anatomic ACLR Comment uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Ankle Injuries
  • Lateral Ligament, Ankle
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures


  • © The Author(s) 2014.Objectives: Recent histological studies have shown that the ACL consists of two different structures: the direct and indirect insertions. The direct insertion is located along the lateral intercondylar ridge and the indirect insertion is ‘lower’ in the notch, adjacent to the posterior articular cartilage. The ‘lower’ position has become more popular for locating the femoral tunnel, as surgeons switch to the anteromedial (AM) portal drilling technique in order to place the graft in the region of the native footprint. However, a recent registry-based outcomes study has reported a 1.5 times higher graft failure rate for AM portal versus traditional transtibial techniques. The objective of this study was to investigate the load characteristics of the native ACL in the regions of the direct and indirect insertions. We hypothesized that the direct insertion would carry more load than the indirect insertion. Methods: Twelve cadaveric knees were mounted to a six degree of freedom robot equipped with a universal forcemoment sensor. We simulated the Lachman and anterior drawer tests at 30o and 90o of flexion by applying a 134N anterior load, and the pivot shift test at 15o flexion by applying combined valgus (8Nm) and internal (4Nm) rotational moments. The kinematic pathway required to achieve these loading conditions was recorded for each intact knee. Using position control to repeat the loading paths, the robot recorded the loads for the ACL intact, ACL partially sectioned, and ACL completely sectioned states. Sectioning Protocol: The lateral intercondylar ridge and posterior articular margin was identified in each case. The 50% mark between this two areas was used to delineate the regions of the direct and indirect insertions (Fig. 1). Sectioning order was alternated between each cadaver. Footprint Digitization: The borders of the sectioned areas were digitized post-sectioning and mapped onto a computed tomography (CT) scan of each knee. The sectioning method was assessed under a blinded validation by experienced observers (TW, AP) who excluded two specimens that did not conform to the objective definitions of the sectioning method. Statistics: Loads were compared between direct and indirect locations at different flexion angles by conducting twoway repeated measures ANOVA models. Results: Under an anterior tibial load at 30° flexion, the direct insertion carried 83.9% (±7.2%) of the total ACL load compared to 16.1% (±7.2%) in the indirect insertion (p<0.001). The direct insertion also carried more load at 90o flexion (95.2% vs 4.8%; p<0.001). Under a combined rotatory load at 15o flexion, the direct insertion carried 84.2% (±4.2%)of the total ACL load compared to 15.8% (±4.2%) in the indirect insertion (p<0.001). Conclusion: The fibres in the direct insertion of the ACL carry more load than fibres in the indirect insertion. Previous studies have suggested that the direct insertion plays a major role in the mechanical link between the ACL and bone. With the current shift in emphasis towards anatomic ACL reconstruction, it may be beneficial to create the femoral tunnel within the direct insertion rather than ‘lower’ in the notch. Although further work is required in determining graft behaviour at the new insertions sites described in this study, our findings suggest that placing a graft in the region of the direct insertion may be an important consideration when adhering to the principles of anatomic ACL reconstruction.

publication date

  • March 2014



  • Comment


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/2325967114S00008

Additional Document Info


  • 2


  • 3