The anterolateral knee ligament has been in hiding for the last 134 years. That’s the last time anyone formally guessed at its presence on the inner structure of the human knee. Back in the 1800s, medical science was nowhere near as advanced as it is today, and yet, a scientist by the name of Paul Segond had a sneaking suspicion that he sported the unknown ligament when he was unable to banish his knee of chronic pain. Somehow, though, through the annals of time, the sneaky little ligament was left all alone and totally forgotten about. Until now.
Researchers dissected 41 cadavers in order to concretely identify this very tiny, yet easy-to-see body part, and in doing so, they have finally brought the anterolateral ligament, also known as ALL, into the realm of the living. They published their findings in the Journal of Anatomy.
The discovery of the anterolateral knee ligament is undoubtedly exciting for knee specialists, but it brings up many questions for the layperson. Out of all the millions of knee surgeries and all the thousands of medical students interested in the knee who had to dissect cadavers, how is it possible that this apparently obvious ligament has been missing for 134 years? Yes, it is small, but it’s not really that much smaller than the Lateral Collateral Ligament also known as the LCL, at least according to the photographs, and that ligament is a well-known troublemaker.
The study points out that this finding could revolutionize the way tears in the even more well known and troublesome ACL are treated but that more work needs to be done before any new techniques can be put into practice. According to the journal:
The precise anatomical knowledge of this enigmatic structure delivered by this study could be highly relevant for clinical practice. However, further research is needed to establish the function of the ALL and to determine its role in clinical knee injuries.
It seems unbelievable that this rather obvious-looking ligament went unnoticed for so long, and begs the question-what the heck else are they missing? However, doctors themselves are quite cavalier about what appears to be a massive medical oversight. University of British Columbia professor Dr. Wayne Vogl says the ligament has continued to be missed “because of all the other stuff that is there.”
Despite this erm… eloquent excuse, the evidence for this ligament was laid out by Segond, who had even written up a comprehensive report about the existence of the anterolateral knee ligament back in 1879. At that time he described it as a “resistant, fibrous band.”
Doctors have known for a long time that some people who had tears to the ACL would continue to suffer complete collapse of the knee despite having had the tear completely repaired via surgery, and yet it never occurred to them to delve more deeply into the knee structure to find out why until now.
No disrespect to medical professionals-after all, they are out there saving lives every day-but most of us take comfort in the thought that doctors know the human body inside out, upside down, back and forth, and sideways. Finding out this is not true is more than a little bit disconcerting, especially with all of the technology we have today. It’s unnerving to think that there could be other human body parts as yet undiscovered.
The anterolateral knee ligament, a brand new (well “new to us” anyway) human body part has been found. What other pesky little parts are lurking around our bodies, just waiting to create havoc while remaining hidden from view?
An Editorial by: Rebecca Savastio