Cruciate ligaments (also cruciform ligaments) are pairs of ligaments arranged like a letter X. They occur in several joints of the body, such as the knee. In a fashion similar to the cords in a toy Jacob's ladder, the crossed ligaments stabilize the joint while allowing a very large range of motion.
- The cruciate ligaments of the knee are the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). These ligaments are two strong, rounded bands that extend from the head of the tibia to the intercondyloid notch of the femur. The ACL is lateral and the PCL is medial. They cross each other like the limbs of an X. They are named for their insertion into the tibia: the ACL attaches to the anterior aspect of the intercondylar area, the PCL to the posterior aspect. The ACL and PCL remain distinct throughout and each has its own partial synovial sheath. Relative to the femur, the ACL keeps the tibia from slipping forward and the PCL keeps the tibia from slipping backward.
- Another structure of this type in human anatomy is the cruciate ligament of the dens of the atlas vertebra, also called "cruciform ligament of the atlas", a ligament in the neck forming part of the atlanto-axial joint.
- In the fingers, the deep and superficial flexor tendons pass through a fibro-osseous tunnel system – the flexor mechanism – of annular and cruciate ligaments called pulleys. The cruciate pulleys tether the long flexor tendons. The number and extent of these cruciate and annular ligaments varies among individuals, but three cruciate and four or five annular ligaments are normally found in each finger (usually referred to as, for example, "A1 pulley" and "C1 pulley"). The thumb has a similar system for its long flexor tendon but with a single oblique pulley replacing the cruciate pulleys found in the fingers.
- The human foot has a cruciate crural ligament, also known as inferior extensor retinaculum of foot. The equine foot has a pair of cruciate distal sesamoidean ligaments in the metacarpophalangeal joint. These ligaments can be seen using computed tomography.
Rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament is one of the "most frequent acquired diseases of the stifle joint" in humans, dogs, and cats; direct trauma to the joint is relatively uncommon and age appears to be a major factor.
Cruciate ligament injuries are common in animals, and in 2005 a study estimated that $1.32 billion was spent in the United States in treating the cranial cruciate ligament of dogs.
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In the first edition of the official Latin nomenclature (Nomina Anatomica, rebaptized in 1998 as Terminologia Anatomica), the Latin expression ligamenta cruciata was used, similar to the expression cruciate ligaments currently in use in English. The nomenclature committee of the Basle Nomenclature Anatomica intended to use the past participle cruciata, derived from the verb cruciare, to refer to crossed. In classical Latin the verb cruciare is derived from crux, with the latter noun meaning cross. Reference works from those days considered Latin cruciatus and English cruciate equivalent to cross-shaped.
In classical Latin, cruciare however means to torture and to torment and not to cross. Early Christian writers, like Lactantius, used cruciare in the sense of to crucify. English cruciate, derived from Latin cruciatus, used to refer similarly to tortured and tormented. The English translation of the list of Latin names of the Basle Nomina Anatomica partially circumvented this problem by using crucial ligaments instead of cruciate ligaments, as crucialis is absent in the classical Latin vocabulary, with crucial in English meaning crosswise or in the form of a cross.
The second edition of Nomina Anatomica replaced this expression by ligamenta decussata genus, and mentioned explicitly that the former adjective cruciata could refer to crucified. The classical Latin verb decussare means to divide crosswise, in the form of an X  with its 'English' equivalent to decussate. In Latin, number ten (decem ) is written as X. The term decussis, derived from decem and as, unit, was also used to refer to this specific numerical designation X. The Latin verb decussare is derived from this specific noun decussis. Earlier it was suggested to replace the adjective cruciatus by the adjective chiastus, which is a Latinization of Ancient Greek χιαστός, in the shape of a X. The Greek Χ is the upper-case of the letter chi, with a similar shape to the Latin X, denoting ten. In modern Greek a cruciate ligament is similarly called χιατός σύνδεσμος, with σύνδεσμος meaning ligament.
The subsequent edition of the Nomina Anatomica, approved in 1955, reverted back this correction made in the Iena Nomina Anatomica. Subsequent editions still used this incorrect form, despite criticism.
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