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Anatomy of the knee

The largest and one of the most complex joints in the human body, the knee provides stability and flexibility to perform different activities. It acts like a hinge allowing free movement of the lower leg while rotating and moving from side to side. To understand the importance of the knee better, let’s take a quick look at its structure and various components:

Bones of the knee: The three bones that make up the knee joint are - tibia, femur, and patella. Together, these bones provide support to the body and allow smooth movement by transferring forces between the hip and foot.

Knee joint type: The knee is essentially a hinge joint, which means it can bend, straighten and twist at the same time. Helping it perform these functions are two joints, the tibiofemoral joint connecting the thigh and shin bones and the patellofemoral joint comprising of the kneecap and thigh bone.

Cartilage- The two types of cartilages that are present in the knee include articular cartilage and meniscus. While the former lines the joint, the latter provides a cushion between the femur and tibia. Additionally, these cartilages act as shock absorbers and reduce friction by allowing the bones of the knees to move smoothly.

Ligaments- Made of collagen, ligaments are connective tissues linking bone to bone. In the case of the knee, they act as stabilising structures by preventing excessive movement. The four ligaments that make of the knee are an anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and lateral collateral ligament.

Muscles- Apart from initiating movement of the knee and the kneecap, knee muscles also control the motion of the hip and foot. The three muscles controlling the movement of the knee include:

  • -Quadriceps on the front of the thigh which straightens the knee
  • -Hamstrings on the back of the thigh which bend the knee
  • -Glutes on the buttocks control the position of the knee and regulate pressure through the joint.

Synovial fluid: The knee is a synovial joint and has a joint capsule which is like a sac surrounding it. This capsule or sac contains synovial fluid which helps in lubricating the joint, allowing it to move smoothly and painlessly.

Sports injuries

The knee is a complex joint that is susceptible to many types of injuries, very often amongst athletes. It can be injured in the form of fractures, sprains, tears, dislocations due to improper technique or incorrect use of sports equipment.

Age-related changes

Age has a profound effect on the knees resulting in a degenerative type of ailments such as osteoarthritis. This type of arthritis is common in the age group of 50 years of age and older and occurs due to the wear and tear of the cartilages in the knee.

Strengthening the knee

The knees are like a sophisticated and complex machine that depends on the smooth functioning of various parts like tendons, ligaments and, cartilage. Like any machine, they require maintenance and upkeep. You can prevent possible injuries by regularly stretching and strengthening the structures and muscles that support your knees.