Back in 1879, a French surgeon claimed that humans had an additional ligament on the knee anterior. After four years of researching the matter, two Belgian doctors have ascertained the existence of this mystery ligament and provided the medical community with its first full anatomical description. Their efforts could prove of tremendous importance for people with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, which were the focal point of the study conducted by Steven Claes and Johan Bellemans at University Hospitals Leuven.
Claes and Bellemans set out to establish why the so-called “pivot shift” was still observed in some patients despite their successful ACL repair operations and rehabilitation. The term refers to an instance of the knee giving way in the course of physical activity. The cadaver study carried out by the Belgian doctors proved that their long-gone colleague was right: the human knee does have an additional ligament and it goes under the name anterolateral ligament (ALL). Claes and Bellemans went on to establish that the pivot shift was the result of an ALL injury.
The findings could lead to a breakthrough in ACL injury treatment and the two doctors have already taken the next step. They are working on the development of a surgical technique to treat ALL injuries. Claes and Bellemans expect to be ready with these results in several years.
Any progress on that front will be of great importance for athletes as ACL tears can have very serious consequences for their careers. Such injuries are particularly common in football, basketball, skiing and American football, all of which are pivot-heavy sports.