The purposes of this study were: (1) to measure the distances between the insertion sites of selected ankle ligament fibers, (2) to measure the force-elongation characteristics of isolated bone-ligament-bone preparations, and (3) to relate the force measurements to angular positions of the ankle. The findings can be used to discuss clinically the correlation between possible ligament injuries and associated foot movement. Three fresh cadaveric ankles were dissected to expose the anterior talofibular ligament, the calcaneofibular ligament, and the superficial deltoid ligament. The ankles were first mounted on a fixture, and insertion to insertion distances of the ligament fibers were measured for selected positions of the ankle/subtalar joint. Bone-ligament-bone preparations were then removed, returned to their anatomical length and uniaxial force-extension testing was performed. The forces in each ligament were recorded for distances corresponding to those measured in situ for various ankle positions. These results allowed: (1) estimation of the forces in these three ligaments in various ankle positions, (2) identification of positions where ligaments were carrying no force, and (3) identification of positions where they carry large forces.
The clinical analysis reveals that the anterior talofibular ligament is sensitive to excessive plantarflexion or dorsiflexion, the calcaneofibular ligament is sensitive to excessive inversion or eversion as well as dorsiflexion or plantarflexion, and that the deltoid ligament appears to be sensitive to plantarflexion, external rotation, and eversion. The fact that all three ligaments tested demonstrated different ranges of tension supports the view that there are optimal positions for testing ankle ligament integrity.