BACKGROUND: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury incurred from high-impact activities leads to an increased risk of osteoarthritis. HYPOTHESIS: Impact forces that cause ACL failure can also inflict cartilage damage, whereby its extent and distribution may be influenced by the ligament failure mechanism. STUDY DESIGN: Descriptive laboratory study. METHODS: Six porcine knee specimens were mounted to a material testing system at 70 degrees of flexion. During compression, rotational and translational data of the specimens were recorded with a motion-capture system. Compression was successively repeated with increasing actuator displacement until a significant drop in compressive force response was observed; ligament failure was assessed by dissection. Osteocartilage explants were extracted from the meniscus-covered sites (anterior, exterior, and posterior) and exposed (interior) sites on both tibial compartments. The explants were sectioned, stained, and histologically scored using the modified Mankin grading system. RESULTS: Five of the 6 specimens incurred ACL failure. On failure, a significant compressive force drop (1812.5-2659.3 N) was observed together with considerable posterior femoral translation; 2 specimens underwent external rotation, while 2 had internal rotation and 1 had no substantial rotation. Generally, the meniscus-covered sites displayed significant surface fraying and occasional deep clefts; the exposed site did not present substantial surface irregularities but indicated more tidemark disruption. Higher Mankin scores observed at certain sites illustrated a localized presence of contact and shear forces, which may be caused by pivoting and sliding of the femoral condyles during rotation. CONCLUSION: The porcine model can be a tenable preliminary option for assessing the role of the human ACL during joint compression. Impact loads that result in ligament failure can potentially inflict considerable cartilage damage; the damage profile may be affected by the type of failure mechanism. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Cartilage injury arising at the time of ACL injury may lead to an accelerated risk of joint degeneration.
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