Anatomy of the Knee


The knee plays an intricate role in our body. The knees essential role is carrying the body weight for horizontal movements, such as running and walking and vertical movements, such as jumping. The knee is a structural measure known as a joint, in which it performs similar to a hinge.

The knees framework is comprised of three bones: the femur (thigh bone), the patella (knee cap), and the tibia (shin bone). It can be divided into a medial compartment— the side of your knee that is closest to the center of your body; the lateral compartment—the side of your knee to the outside of your body; and the patellofemoral compartment—the area behind the knee cap.

The end of each of these bones comprises of a layer of smooth, elastic tissue known as articular cartilage. The cartilage shields the bones for smooth transitioning and acts as a shock absorber.

Ligaments inside the knee link the bones together, while muscles and tendons are central supports of strength, stability, and movement.  Ligaments include the anterior cruciate ligament, commonly called the ACL, the posterior cruciate ligament (the PCL), the medial collateral ligament and the lateral collateral ligament.

Atop the tibia are two crescent-shaped pieces of cartilage called menisci. The knee joint is joined to the calf muscles, as well as the quadriceps and hamstrings. It is these muscles working in unison that provide a 180 degree extension of the knee.

Optimal knee function is essential for the basic movements required in activities including standing, walking, kneeling, running, jumping, skating, etc.  Each of these movements is achieved through the flexion of extension of the knee joint.

Getting to Know Your Knee

Tibia—shin bone or larger bone of the lower leg.

Femur—thighbone or upper leg bone.


Cartilage—tissue that covers the surface of a bone at a joint.

Ligament—tough, elastic connective tissue that surrounds the joint to give support and limits the joint movement.

Tendon—tough connective tissue that connects muscles to bones and help control movements of joints.

Meniscus—curved region of the cartilage in the knee and other joints that acts a shock absorber.

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