The development morphology of a “periosteal” ligament insertion: Growth and maturation of the tibial insertion of the rabbit medial collateral ligament



The structural properties of ligament insertions change dramatically during growth and maturation, but little is known about their developmental anatomy. This study describes and quantifies changes in the gross and microscopic anatomy of the tibial insertion of the rabbit medial collateral ligament (MCL) during development and at skeletal maturity. Eighty animals were used for growth and descriptive studies. From this group, 27 animals, ranging in age from 1 to 24 months, were injected with fluorescent bone markers and their tibial insertions were processed undecalcified for histology. Sections were examined by polarized light and fluorescence microscopy to identify matrix and cells and to quantify mineral formation. Results showed that animals achieved histological skeletal maturity between 9 and 12 months of age. Body weights were a poor index of skeletal maturity. The tibial insertion was composed of five tissue layers, which changed proportions during growth and maturation. In immature animals, MCL fibers entered the periosteum; in older animals, MCL fibers were cemented to the tibia by advancing mineral. The tibial attachment of the MCL was thus transferred from the periosteum to the cortex during growth, suggesting that the term “periosteal insertion” is imprecise in adults. The hypothesis is put forward that these structural changes account for the reported increase in tensile failure of this insertion near skeletal maturity.