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What Is the Meniscal Ligament?

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  • Written By: Shelby Miller
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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Meniscal ligament can refer to one of several ligaments attaching to the menisci, the two articular disks found within the capsule of the knee joint. These include the transverse ligament, the anterior and posterior meniscofemoral ligaments, the paired coronary or meniscotibial ligaments, and the oblique meniscomeniscal ligament. Unlike the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the major ligaments of the joint capsule, the meniscal ligaments are not necessarily present in all individuals.

Between the femur bone of the thigh and the tibia bone of the shin, and behind the patella or kneecap, is the knee joint. A synovial hinge joint, a type of joint that can move in two directions, the knee joint is enclosed between the bones by a synovial capsule. This capsule contains fluid to lubricate and nourish the joint; multiple ligaments holding the bones together and providing stability to the joint; and a pair of round, flat disks called menisci lying side by side to cushion the bones and absorb shock. The menisci are known as the lateral meniscus and medial meniscus, with the lateral meniscus corresponding with the little-toe side of the leg and the medial meniscus corresponding with the big-toe side of the leg.

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Within this joint capsule, the ACL and PCL lie between the menisci and form an X, attaching the femur above to the tibia below. Each remaining ligament inside of the joint capsule can be considered a meniscal ligament, because rather than join bone to bone as do the cruciate ligaments, each joins the menisci to bone or to each other. The transverse ligament runs laterally between the two disks on the anterior or front side of the joint and lies flat atop the tibia bone. It both keeps the disks from slipping forward out of the joint as the knee straightens as well as protects the menisci from getting crushed between the bones during this motion.

Another type of meniscal ligament is the meniscofemoral ligament, of which there are two. The anterior meniscofemoral ligament, known as Humphrey’s ligament, begins on the posterior horn or rear edge of the lateral meniscus. Running parallel to the posterior cruciate ligament, which is three times its size, it passes just to the front of that ligament and attaches to the underside of the femur on the outside aspect of its inside condyle, one of the two prominent bumps on the bottom of the bone. The slightly larger posterior meniscofemoral ligament, or Wrisberg’s ligament, follows the same path but is found just behind the PCL.

These ligaments assist the PCL in preventing the tibia from translating posteriorly or sliding backward relative to the femur. The Humphrey's and Wrisberg's ligaments are both present in only six percent of people. Approximately 70 percent of people possess only one or the other, while the remainder have neither.

Several additional ligaments of the knee joint can be considered meniscal ligaments. The meniscotibial ligament, a paired collateral ligament, could technically be considered an extracapsular meniscal ligament as it stretches from the outside aspect of either meniscus downward and out of the capsule to attach to the tibial plateau on the top surface of the tibia bone. Occurring in fewer than five percent of individuals, the oblique meniscomeniscal ligament is a tiny meniscal ligament that lies flat against the top of the tibia bone between the two disks. It also is a paired cruciate ligament, forming an X by crossing from the anterior horn of one meniscus to the posterior horn of the other meniscus.

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