The Role of the Oblique Popliteal Ligament and Other Structures in Preventing Knee Hyperextension

Patrick M. Morgan, Robert F. Laprade, Fred A. Wentorf, Jeremy W. Cook, Aaron Bianco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background: Ligament restraints to terminal knee extension are poorly understood. Hypotheses: (1) As with other motions of the knee, genu recurvatum is limited primarily by a named, identifiable structure. (2) As the largest static structure of the posterior knee, the oblique popliteal ligament is uniquely suited to act as a checkrein to knee hyperextension. Study Design: Descriptive laboratory study. Methods: Twenty fresh-frozen human knees were divided into 3 groups for a ligament sectioning study. Extension moments of 14 and 27 N·m were applied before and after sectioning of each ligament, and motion changes were recorded. In group 1, the oblique popliteal ligament was sectioned first, followed by the fabellofibular ligament, ligament of Wrisberg, anterior cruciate ligament, posterolateral structures, and posterior cruciate ligament. In group 2, the order was altered to section the anterior cruciate ligament first; no other changes were made. Similarly, the cutting order for group 3 was altered to section the posterior cruciate ligament first. The sagittal tibial slope of each specimen was documented off a lateral radiograph. Results: The greatest increase in knee hyperextension was observed after sectioning the oblique popliteal ligament. This was independent of cutting order, consistent across groups, and statistically significant. In all groups, the increase in knee hyperextension after sectioning the oblique popliteal ligament approached or exceeded the increases seen after sectioning the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments combined. Overall, less knee hyperextension was seen in knees with increased posterior tibial slope. Conclusion: The oblique popliteal ligament was found to be the primary ligamentous restraint to knee hyperextension. Clinical Relevance: Further studies are needed to determine if surgical repair or reconstruction of the oblique popliteal ligament can restore normal motion limits in patients with symptomatic genu recurvatum. Patients with decreased posterior tibial slope would have increased recurvatum with posterior structure injury, which increases the likelihood of increased symptoms in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)550-557
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
One or more authors has declared a potential conflict of interest: This work is supported by a resident research grant from the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation and a medical student research grant through the Minnesota Medical Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2010 The Author(s).


  • genu recurvatum
  • oblique popliteal ligament
  • posterior tibial slope

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