Background: Ankle ligament injuries and instability are commonly observed. Knowledge of the relationship between the foot position and tensile forces of the ankle ligaments could be useful for treatment of ankle ligament disorders. The aim of this study was to measure the tensile forces of the ankle ligaments at the end points of passive circumferential rotating motion of the ankle and subtalar joint complex in various foot positions. Methods: Ligament tensile forces of the anterior talofibular (ATF), calcaneofibular (CF), posterior talofibular (PTF), and tibiocalcaneal (TC) ligaments were measured simultaneously in eight cadaver specimens, with a force probe in each ligament in a custom-made ankle ligament testing device. Weights of 0.5 kg and 1 kg were applied to the foot through a loading arm to provide axial compression and a bending moment to the foot and ankle. The position of the loading arm was changed circumferentially in 10-degree increments. Results: Maximal tensile force in the ATF ligament was observed in supination with plantarflexion (108 ± 62.8 N at 0.5 kg and 130 ± 39.1 N at 1 kg). The maximal tensile force in the CF ligament was observed in pronation with plantarflexion (68 ± 48.6 N at 0.5 kg and 135 ± 92.9 N at 1 kg). The maximal tensile force in the PTF ligament was observed in dorsiflexion (131 ± 80.1 N at 0.5 kg and 109 ± 36.3 N at 1 kg). The maximal tensile force of the TC ligament was observed in pronation with plantarflexion (49.0 ± 80.1 N at 0.5 kg and 67.4 ± 69.6 N at 1 kg). Relatively high magnitudes of tensile force were observed in the ankle ligaments, and the peak forces were related to the anatomic position of individual ligaments. Conclusions: The ATF ligament has an important role in the supination position in plantarflexion, CF and TC ligaments also are important for pronation in plantarflexion, and the PTF is an important stabilizer in dorsiflexion. This study provides baseline information for further research related to ligament instability and reconstruction operations.
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