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The Knee Joint Paper Essay

Of the joints in the human body, the knee joint is the most susceptible to injuries. Because this joint carries much of the body weight, and beside the fact that it was designed to do much of the human activities, the knee joint accounts for the most common joint injuries. Its two primary motions are flexion and extension, and a little rotational and lateral motion. “It is also because of this design that the knee is so vulnerable to injury.” (M. Mullin and K. Stone)

The knee has basically five major parts: the bones, the muscles, ligaments, cartilage and tendons. It is the function of the bones to support the knee and give the joint a rigid structure. There are four bones that make up the knee: first, the femur, which is also referred to as the thighbone or the upper leg bone. (University of Utah, Heath Sciences Center, 2003) This large bone is attached by the ligaments and a capsule to another bone the tibia. Tibia is the larger bone of the knee which is called the shin bone. Parallel to the tibia is another bone called the fibula located below the tibia. The knee cap or the patella is another bone that consists the knee which “rides on the joint as the knee bends.” (Center for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, 1999)

It is the function of the muscles to move the joint. The knee joint consists of two kinds of muscles: the quadriceps and the hamstrings. The quadriceps muscles straighten the legs, and are situated at the front of the thighs. The hamstring muscles, which are located at the back of the thighs, are the ones bending the legs at the knee. All groups of muscles are connected to the knee bones by “thick fibrous cords” called the tendons. (Mayo Clinic, 2006) Patellar tendons connect the quadriceps muscles to the tibia, which are the ones prone to knee joint problems called, “tendonitis”.

The bones of the knee are connected by ligaments, which functions are basically to stabilize and hold the joint together. These elastic tissues also provide protection to the joint by limiting the backward and forward movement of the knee. At the center of the joint are the cruciate ligaments called the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), which is attached to the depression in front of the tibia and “passes upward, backward and lateral ward and fixed into the medial and back part of the lateral condoyle of the femur.” (H. Gray, 1918)

It is considered the key guide wire in the knee joint and is crucial for guiding the tibia in a normal path along the end of the femur. (Mullin and Stone) The Posterior Cruciate ligaments (PCL) protect the joint by preventing the femur from sliding forward on the tibia, and the tibia from sliding backwards n the femur. The media Collateral ligament (MCL) provides protection to the inner part of the knee and the lateral Collateral ligament (CLC) on the outer part.

The C-shaped tissue called the meniscus or the menisci cartilage allows the bones to freely slide on each other. They serve as shock absorbers and bone protector. Around the knee joint are little fluid sacs called bursa. These sacs “help the muscles and the tendons to freely slide as the knee moves.” (Center for Orthopaedics) There are five medial bursas and four lateral bursas.

The knee is prone to injuries and especially those who are engaged in activities that enable the knee to be overused. These people, most often athletes experience different kinds of pain in the knee joint as a result of injury, stress and wear of the joint. Common to athletes are the ligament injuries called sprain or the injury to the cruciate ligaments.

This injury happens when the “ACL is stretch or torn by sudden twisting motion”, as when the feet are planted one way and the knees are turned another. (Healthlink 2005) Football players often experience a PCL injury during a football tackle. Contact sports like hockey and football cause injury to the MCL and the CCL, where the said ligament is torn and stretch at the inner side of the knee due to a sudden blow to the outer side of the knee called a contact trauma.

Tendonitis or the jumper’s knee is caused by an overuse of the tendon. As the term implies, this injury is experienced by athletes who are engaged in sports like basketball, which require jumping and running causing a strain in the tendon. Dancers, cyclists, skiers and runners are as victims of this injury. With these activities, the tendon is stretched to the pint that it becomes like a worn-out rubber band and when this happens, it will swell. Muscle contraction happens after a jump or fall, and that repeated force causes strain to the tendons. What is worse is that such contraction, as when trying to break a fall, may tear the quadriceps muscles above and below the patella. Tendonitis causes a person to feel pain during running and jumping or even when in a hurried walking. Bending, extending and lifting the leg will also be difficult.

A pain arising between the patella and the femur is called Chondromalacia, which is characterized by the softening of the articular cartilage of the knee cap. (Mayo Clinic) With this injury, the knee cap rubs against the thigh bone which makes the cartilage rough. As a result, the person will feel pain in front of the knee when climbing the stairs or when sitting for a long period. This injury is common to skiers, soccer players and cyclists who, among other athletes are prone to having a blow in the knee cap resulting to a tear of the cartilage. Such contacts can also tear off a large fragment of the cartilage containing a piece of bone.

Injury to the meniscus typically results from “a twist or torque to the knee while the foot stays still.” (Mullin and Stone) A tear in the meniscus may cause the joint to lock especially when there is a flap of the torn cartilage. When there is only a small tear, mild pain and moderate swelling of the knee lasts up to 48 hours; however large lengthwise tear causes the joint to lock making hard for the person to straighten the knee.

Distance runners are prone to Illiotibial Band Syndrome which happens when the ligament in the illiotibial band becomes tight enabling it to rub against the outer portion of the femur. Pains caused by this injury are felt when waking and when going up and down the stairs. Also associated with running activities is the Osgood-Schatter Disease, where an inflammation of the patellar tendon is involved. This injury happens when the tendon is stretch too much causing it to tear away from the tibia and in some cases takes a bone fragment. A pain just below the knee is experienced with this injury, and is however treated just with a rest.

Having the fact that the knee joint is susceptible to many injuries, experts advice that a person must always maintain strong and flexible muscles. The cartilage and ligaments must always be kept smooth and strong. Good diet and proper exercise are always on the list of preventive measures. Lastly, let us remember that anything that goes below and beyond normal causes problems, not only to the knee, but the body as a whole


Gray, Henry 1918. “Anatomy of the Human Body” Retrieved on February 22, 2007 from

Mullin, Michael and Kevin Stone. “Athletic Injuries of the Knee and Shoulder” Retrieved on February 22, 2007 from

The Center for orthopeadics and Sports Medicine. “Knee Joint-Anatomy and Function” Retrieved on February 22, 2007 from

The Mayo Clinic Staff. “Knee Pain” Retrieved on February 22, 2007 from

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. “Knee Injuries and Problems: Symptoms Diagnosis and Treatment” May 01, 2001. Retrieved on February 22, 2007 from

University of Utah Health Sciences Center “Knee Pains and Problems” November 2001. Retrieved on February 22, 2007 from

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