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Anterior Cruciate Ligament - ACL

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Updated August 04, 2009

ACL tear knee anatomy

The ACL is one of four major knee ligaments.

Photo © A.D.A.M.
Definition: The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of four ligaments critical to the stability of the knee joint. A ligament is made of tough fibrous material and functions to control excessive motion by limiting joint mobility. Of the four major ligaments of the knee, the ACL is the most frequently injured.

What does the ACL do?

The anterior cruciate ligament is the primary restraint to forward motion of the shin bone (tibia). The anatomy of the knee joint is critical to understanding this relationship. The femur (thigh bone) sits on top of the tibia (shin bone), and the knee joint allows movement at the junction of these bones. Without ligaments to stabilize the knee, the joint would be unstable and prone to dislocation. The ACL prevents the tibia from sliding too far forward.

The ACL also contributes stability to other movements at the joint including the angulation and rotation at the knee joint. The ACL performs these functions by attaching to the femur on one end, and to the tibia on the other. The other major ligaments of the knee are the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), and the medial and lateral collateral ligaments (MCL and LCL, respectively).

Also Known As: acl
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