The purpose of this study was to compare the tensile strength of the central one third patellar tendon--as used for reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament--to that of the residual patellar tendon. Ten matched pairs of human cadaveric knees were used for this study, each specimen consisting of an intact patella-patellar tendon-proximal tibial unit. One knee from each pair was randomly selected for removal of both the medial and lateral one third of the patellar tendon, leaving the central one third intact. The contralateral knee of each pair underwent removal of the central one third of the patellar tendon, leaving the residual two thirds intact. Each specimen was then mounted in a materials testing machine and tensile tested to failure at a strain rate of 100%.s-1. The most important result to emerge from these experiments was that there was no significant difference in maximum force to failure for the residual patellar tendon compared to the central one third. Thus any thought that removal of the central one third as a graft still leaves a tendon twice as wide and therefore twice as strong as a graft is dispelled by these experiments.