By: Ian Zolty, Esq.
Have you ever heard of the anterolateral ligament? If you have not, don’t feel bad because almost no one was aware of it until recent months.
The research of two orthopedic surgeons, Dr. Steven Claes and Dr. Johan Bellemans from University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium, may be breaking new ground in the treatment of common knee injuries. They have determined that there is a ligament in the knee, now named the anterolateral ligament, or ALL for short, that runs from the outer side of the thigh bone to the shin bone. Writing in the Journal of Anatomy, the doctors said they believe that the ALL is found in 97% of all human knees. Importantly, this ligament appears to play a role in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, which are very common in workers’ compensation cases.
The Belgian surgeons came across an article on the ALL, first theorized by a French surgeon in 1879, but no one ever determined what its structure or function was. The surgeons looked at 41 donated knee joints and found the ALL in all but one of the subjects. They believe that this ligament gives way during ACL tears and plays a role in proper treatment and recovery of ACL injuries.
Despite having surgery and rehabilitation, some patients with ACL-repaired knees continue to experience incidents where their knee “gives way” during certain activities. The Belgian surgeons believe this could be happening because treating surgeons are not addressing the torn ALL, which may be injured at the same time as the ACL. This makes the knee more vulnerable to injury when it rotates. ALL injuries may also be responsible for small fractures that usually are blamed on ACL injuries. Therefore, a better understanding of the ALL may help physicians and orthopedic surgeons develop more sophisticated treatment methods for ACL tears and other common knee injuries.
It will be interesting to see what reaction this research has on treatment in the United States and whether treating doctors begin to address the role of the anterolateral ligament in workers’ compensation cases.