Fiber splay precludes the direct identification of ligament material properties: Implications for ACL graft selection

Callan M. Luetkemeyer, Ryan A. Rosario, Jonathan B. Estrada, Ellen M. Arruda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries typically require surgical reconstruction to restore adequate knee stability. The middle third of an injured patient's patellar tendon (PT) is a commonly used graft for ACL reconstruction. However, many clinicians and researchers question whether it is the best option, as several studies have suggested that it is a stiffer material than the ACL. Still, there is little to no consensus on even the most basic material property of ligaments/tendons: the tangent modulus in the fiber direction, or slope of the linear portion of the uniaxial stress–strain curve. In this study, we investigate the effect of fiber splay (the tendency of collagen fibers to spread out near the enthesis) on the apparent tangent modulus. Using a simplified theoretical model, we establish a quantity we call the splay ratio, which describes the relationship between splay geometry and the apparent tangent modulus. We then more rigorously investigate the effect of the splay ratio on the apparent tangent modulus of the ovine PT and anteromedial and posterolateral regions of the ACL using experimental and computational methods. Both approaches confirmed that splay geometry significantly affects the apparent material behavior. Because true material properties are independent of geometry, we conclude that the macroscopic response of ligaments and tendons is not sufficient for the characterization of their material properties, but rather is reflective of both material and structural properties. We further conclude that the PT is probably not a stiffer material than ACL, but that the PT graft is likely a stiffer structure than either ACL region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110104
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
StatePublished - Dec 2 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • ACL
  • Anisotropy
  • Geometry
  • Ligament
  • Material properties
  • Mechanics
  • Patellar tendon
  • Splay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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