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Tibiofemoral movement 1: the shapes and relative movements of the femur and tibia in the unloaded cadaver knee

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In six unloaded cadaver knees we used MRI to determine the shapes of the articular surfaces and their relative movements. These were confirmed by dissection.

Medially, the femoral condyle in sagittal section is composed of the arcs of two circles and that of the tibia of two angled flats. The anterior facets articulate in extension. At about 20° the femur ‘rocks’ to articulate through the posterior facets. The medial femoral condyle does not move anteroposteriorly with flexion to 110°.

Laterally, the femoral condyle is composed entirely, or almost entirely, of a single circular facet similar in radius and arc to the posterior medial facet. The tibia is roughly flat. The femur tends to roll backwards with flexion.

The combination during flexion of no antero-posterior movement medially (i.e., sliding) and backward rolling (combined with sliding) laterally equates to internal rotation of the tibia around a medial axis with flexion. About 5° of this rotation may be obligatory from 0° to 10° flexion; thereafter little rotation occurs to at least 45°. Total rotation at 110° is about 20°, most if not all of which can be suppressed by applying external rotation to the tibia at 90°.

Correspondence should be sent to Mr M. A. R. Freeman at The Bone and Joint Research Unit, The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel Road, London E1 1BB, UK.

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