Ligament fibre recruitment at the human ankle joint complex in passive flexion

Rita Stagni, Alberto Leardini, Andrea Ensini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Knowledge of ligament fibre recruitment at the human ankle joint complex is a fundamental prerequisite for analysing mobility and stability. Previous experimental and modelling studies have shown that ankle motion must be guided by fibres within the calcaneofibular and tibiocalcaneal ligaments, which remain approximately isometric during passive flexion. The purpose of this study was to identify these fibres. Three below-knee amputated specimens were analysed during passive flexion with combined radiostereometry for bone pose estimation and 3D digitisation for ligament attachment area identification. A procedure based on singular value decomposition enabled matching bone pose with digitised data and therefore reconstructing position in space of ligament attachment areas in each joint position. Eleven ordered fibres, connecting corresponding points on origin and insertion curves, were modelled for each of the following ligaments: posterior talofibular, calcaneofibular, anterior talofibular, posterior tibiotalar, tibiocalcaneal, and anterior tibiotalar. The measured changes in length for the ligament fibres revealed patterns of tightening and slackening. The most anterior fibre of the calcaneofibular and the medio-anterior fibre of the tibiocalcaneal ligament exhibited the most isometric behaviour, as well as the most posterior fibre of the anterior talofibular ligament. Fibres within the calcaneofibular ligament remain parallel in the transverse plane, while those within the tibiocalcaneal ligament become almost parallel in joint neutral position. For both these ligaments, fibres maintain their relative inclination in the sagittal plane throughout the passive flexion range. The observed significant change in both shape and orientation of the ankle ligaments suggest that this knowledge is fundamental for future mechanical analysis of their response to external forces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1823-1829
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004


  • Ankle joint complex
  • Fibre recruitment
  • Length change
  • Ligament
  • Passive flexion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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