The mechanism of the pivot shift was investigated by analysing movements under valgus torque in 29 fresh cadaveric knees. The movements were measured in three dimensions, using biplanar photography, when all the ligaments were intact, and then after the ligaments were sequentially divided. When only the anterior cruciate ligament was sectioned, the pivot shift occurred in seven out of 20 knees examined. In the other 13, though the pivot shift was not observed, an abnormal internal rotation occurred at between 10° and 50° of flexion. Division of the iliotibial tract in addition to division of the anterior cruciate ligament stopped the pivot shift, as the tibia remained internally rotated throughout the range of flexion. The axis of rotation of the pivot shift was located at the medical collateral ligament, which was kept tight by the applied valgus torque. The sudden movement in the pivot shift was caused by a complex interaction between the geometry of the knee and the valgus torque applied.
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