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Author - Anastasia Belikov, PT, Cert. MDT
Graduated with her DPT in 2017

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Understanding the Knee


Monday, August 7, 2023

The knee, one of the most complex and largest joints in the human body, plays a vital role in movement and supporting the weight of the body. The knee joint is composed of bones, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, muscles, and bursae.

1. Bones

The knee joint is formed by three primary bones:

  • Femur (thigh bone): The largest bone in the human body, connecting the knee to the hip.

  • Tibia (shin bone): Supports the body's weight and is connected to the femur at the knee joint.

  • Patella (kneecap): A small, triangular bone in front of the joint, aiding in knee extension.

2. Ligaments

Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones together. The knee has four main ligaments:

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL): Stabilizes the knee by preventing the tibia from sliding forward.

  • Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL): Works opposite the ACL, preventing the tibia from sliding backward.

  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL): Runs along the inside of the knee, controlling the sideways motion.

  • Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL): Located on the outside of the knee, working with the MCL.

3. Tendons

Tendons are flexible but inelastic cords of strong fibrous collagen tissue that connect muscles to bones. In the knee, the quadriceps tendon connects the quadriceps muscle to the patella, while the patellar tendon connects the patella to the tibia.

4. Cartilage

Two types of cartilage are found in the knee:

  • Meniscus: A tough but flexible cushion that acts as a shock absorber between the femur and tibia.

  • Articular Cartilage: A smooth substance that lines the ends of the bones, reducing friction.

5. Muscles

Key muscles supporting the knee include the quadriceps (front of the thigh) and hamstrings (back of the thigh). Together, they facilitate knee movement like extension, flexion, and rotation.

6. Bursae

Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that reduce friction between tissues. Several bursae are located around the knee, aiding in the smooth motion of ligaments and tendons.

The anatomy of the knee is a sophisticated assembly of various components, each with a unique function. A delicate balance between these elements allows for flexible movement, stability, and shock absorption. Understanding the knee's anatomy is vital for medical professionals in diagnosing and treating injuries, as well as for athletes and fitness enthusiasts in injury prevention and recovery.

Understanding the Knee
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