A Look At Knee Anatomy

The knee is not a simple hinge or a pivot type of a joint. There are rolling and sliding movement occurring in the joint area hence it is very important to understand the basic knee anatomy as it is subjected to not only the body weight but varying amount of compressive forces.

The most important parts of the knee include the following:

-bones and joints




-blood vessels


To understand the knee anatomy is important as it helps us to understand any underlying pathology.


The bones and joints:

The knee joint is formed by the meeting of two bones in the leg. The two bones being the thigh bone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia). The kneecap (patella) is a bone which sits in front of the knee joint.

The knee joint is a type of a synovial joint which contains the synovial fluid. The synovial joints are enclosed by a ligament capsule. The synovial fluid lubricates the joint.


The ligaments and tendons:

The ligaments are tough bands of tissue. These connect the ends of the bones together. The knee comprises of two main ligaments which lie on either sides of the knee joint. They are the medial collateral and the lateral collateral ligaments.

Inside the knee joint two other ligaments are present which are the anterior cruciate ligament and the posterior cruciate ligaments. They stretch between the femur and the tibia. These ligaments limit the side to side movement of the knee joint.

Another type of special ligaments present in the knee which are the menisci ligaments which lie between the femur and the tibia. They mainly provide two main functions:

1)    The ligaments help in stability of the knee.

2)    They work to spread the force from the weight of the body over a larger area.



The tendons are similar to the ligaments. The tendons attach the ligaments to the bones. The most important tendon of the knee is the patellar tendon which also happens to be the largest tendon of the knee. This tendon connects the tibia and the patella. Another type of tendon present in the knee is the quadriceps tendon. This tendon is called quadriceps as it attaches to the quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh. The hamstring muscles which are present at the back of the leg also have tendons which attach at different places around the knee.



The muscles:

The quadriceps muscle which lies in the front of the thigh. They are the muscles which attach to the quadriceps tendon. When these muscles contract they straighten the knee joint.

The hamstring muscles are the muscles which lie behind the knee and the thigh. The contraction of these muscles causes the knee to bend.




The popliteal nerve at the back of the knee is the most important nerve around the knee. This large nerve travels all the way down to the lower leg and the foot and is responsible for muscle control and supplying sensation.

The popliteal nerve splits just above the knee to form two nerves- the peroneal nerve and the tibial nerve.


Blood vessels:

The popliteal artery and the popliteal vein form the largest blood supply to the leg and the foot. If any damage to the popliteal artery occurs then it is very likely that the leg will not survive. The popliteal artery provides the blood supply to the leg and the foot whereas the popliteal vein carries blood back to the heart. The main blood vessels travel along the popliteal nerve to the back of the knee.

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  1. in feb 2011 i fractured my femur and whilst having surgery my popliteal arterie was damaged by a drill used by the sergeon which a vasculin team managed to repair the damage and save my leg but now im on warfarin and have no feeling in my knee and cannot straighten my leg…..

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