Blausen 0597 KneeAnatomy Side.png
Right knee seen from the right side
SystemMusculoskeletal system
Nervefemoral, obturator, sciatic
LatinArticulatio genus
MeSHD007719, D007717
FMA35175 24974, 35175
Anatomical terminology

The knee joins the thigh with the leg and consists of two joints: one between the femur and tibia (tibiofemoral joint), and one between the femur and patella (patellofemoral joint).[1] It is the largest joint in the human body.[2] The knee is a modified hinge joint, which permits flexion and extension as well as slight internal and external rotation. The knee is vulnerable to injury and to the development of osteoarthritis.

It is often termed a compound joint having tibiofemoral and patellofemoral components.[3][4] (The fibular collateral ligament is often considered with tibiofemoral components.)[5]


Lateral and posterior aspects of right knee
Articular surfaces of femur
Articular surfaces of tibia

The knee is a modified hinge joint, a type of synovial joint, which is composed of three functional compartments: the patellofemoral articulation, consisting of the patella, or "kneecap", and the patellar groove on the front of the femur through which it slides; and the medial and lateral tibiofemoral articulations linking the femur, or thigh bone, with the tibia, the main bone of the lower leg.[6] The joint is bathed in synovial fluid which is contained inside the synovial membrane called the joint capsule. The posterolateral corner of the knee is an area that has recently been the subject of renewed scrutiny and research.

The knee is the largest joint and one of the most important joints in the body. It plays an essential role in movement related to carrying the body weight in horizontal (running and walking) and vertical (jumping) directions.

At birth, the kneecap is just formed from cartilage, and this will ossify (change to bone) between the ages of three and five years. Because it is the largest sesamoid bone in the human body, the ossification process takes significantly longer.[7]

Articular bodies

The main articular bodies of the femur are its lateral and medial condyles. These diverge slightly distally and posteriorly, with the lateral condyle being wider in front than at the back while the medial condyle is of more constant width.[8] The radius of the condyles' curvature in the sagittal plane becomes smaller toward the back. This diminishing radius produces a series of involute midpoints (i.e. located on a spiral). The resulting series of transverse axes permit the sliding and rolling motion in the flexing knee while ensuring the collateral ligaments are sufficiently lax to permit the rotation associated with the curvature of the medial condyle about a vertical axis.[9]

The pair of tibial condyles are separated by the intercondylar eminence[8] composed of a lateral and a medial tubercle.[10]

The patella also serves an articular body, and its posterior surface is referred to as the trochlea of the knee.[11] It is inserted into the thin anterior wall of the joint capsule.[8] On its posterior surface is a lateral and a medial articular surface,[9] both of which communicate with the patellar surface which unites the two femoral condyles on the anterior side of the bone's distal end.[12]

Articular capsule

The articular capsule has a synovial and a fibrous membrane separated by fatty deposits. Anteriorly, the synovial membrane is attached on the margin of the cartilage both on the femur and the tibia, but on the femur, the suprapatellar bursa or recess extends the joint space proximally.[13] The suprapatellar bursa is prevented from being pinched during extension by the articularis genus muscle.[14] Behind, the synovial membrane is attached to the margins of the two femoral condyles which produces two extensions similar to the anterior recess. Between these two extensions, the synovial membrane passes in front of the two cruciate ligaments at the center of the joint, thus forming a pocket direct inward.[13]


Numerous bursae surround the knee joint. The largest communicative bursa is the suprapatellar bursa described above. Four considerably smaller bursae are located on the back of the knee. Two non-communicative bursae are located in front of the patella and below the patellar tendon, and others are sometimes present. [13]


Cartilage is a thin, elastic tissue that protects the bone and makes certain that the joint surfaces can slide easily over each other. Cartilage ensures supple knee movement. There are two types of joint cartilage in the knees: fibrous cartilage (the meniscus) and hyaline cartilage. Fibrous cartilage has tensile strength and can resist pressure. Hyaline cartilage covers the surface along which the joints move. Cartilage will wear over the years. Cartilage has a very limited capacity for self-restoration. The newly formed tissue will generally consist of a large part of fibrous cartilage of lesser quality than the original hyaline cartilage. As a result, new cracks and tears will form in the cartilage over time.


The articular disks of the knee-joint are called menisci because they only partly divide the joint space.[15] These two disks, the medial meniscus and the lateral meniscus, consist of connective tissue with extensive collagen fibers containing cartilage-like cells. Strong fibers run along the menisci from one attachment to the other, while weaker radial fibers are interlaced with the former. The menisci are flattened at the center of the knee joint, fused with the synovial membrane laterally, and can move over the tibial surface. [16][17]

The menisci serve to protect the ends of the bones from rubbing on each other and to effectively deepen the tibial sockets into which the femur attaches. They also play a role in shock absorption, and may be cracked, or torn, when the knee is forcefully rotated and/or bent.


Anterolateral aspect of right knee
Anteromedial aspect of right knee

The ligaments surrounding the knee joint offer stability by limiting movements and, together with the menisci and several bursae, protect the articular capsule.


The knee is stabilized by a pair of cruciate ligaments. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) stretches from the lateral condyle of femur to the anterior intercondylar area. The ACL is critically important because it prevents the tibia from being pushed too far anterior relative to the femur. It is often torn during twisting or bending of the knee. The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) stretches from medial condyle of femur to the posterior intercondylar area. Injury to this ligament is uncommon but can occur as a direct result of forced trauma to the ligament. This ligament prevents posterior displacement of the tibia relative to the femur.

The transverse ligament stretches from the lateral meniscus to the medial meniscus. It passes in front of the menisci. It is divided into several strips in 10% of cases.[16] The two menisci are attached to each other anteriorly by the ligament.[18] The posterior and anterior meniscofemoral ligaments stretch from the posterior horn of the lateral meniscus to the medial femoral condyle. They pass posteriorly behind the posterior cruciate ligament. The posterior meniscofemoral ligament is more commonly present (30%); both ligaments are present less often.[16] The meniscotibial ligaments (or "coronary") stretches from inferior edges of the mensici to the periphery of the tibial plateaus.


The patellar ligament connects the patella to the tuberosity of the tibia. It is also occasionally called the patellar tendon because there is no definite separation between the quadriceps tendon (which surrounds the patella) and the area connecting the patella to the tibia.[19] This very strong ligament helps give the patella its mechanical leverage[20] and also functions as a cap for the condyles of the femur. Laterally and medially to the patellar ligament the lateral and medial retinacula connect fibers from the vasti lateralis and medialis muscles to the tibia. Some fibers from the iliotibial tract radiate into the lateral retinaculum and the medial retinaculum receives some transverse fibers arising on the medial femoral epicondyle.[8]

The medial collateral ligament (MCL a.k.a. "tibial") stretches from the medial epicondyle of the femur to the medial tibial condyle. It is composed of three groups of fibers, one stretching between the two bones, and two fused with the medial meniscus. The MCL is partly covered by the pes anserinus and the tendon of the semimembranosus passes under it.[8] It protects the medial side of the knee from being bent open by a stress applied to the lateral side of the knee (a valgus force). The lateral collateral ligament (LCL a.k.a. "fibular") stretches from the lateral epicondyle of the femur to the head of fibula. It is separate from both the joint capsule and the lateral meniscus.[8] It protects the lateral side from an inside bending force (a varus force). The anterolateral ligament (ALL) is situated in front of the LCL.[citation needed]

Lastly, there are two ligaments on the dorsal side of the knee. The oblique popliteal ligament is a radiation of the tendon of the semimembranosus on the medial side, from where it is direct laterally and proximally. The arcuate popliteal ligament originates on the apex of the head of the fibula to stretch proximally, crosses the tendon of the popliteus muscle, and passes into the capsule.[8]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Knie
Ænglisc: Cnēo
العربية: ركبة
aragonés: Chenullo
ܐܪܡܝܐ: ܒܘܪܟܐ
armãneashti: Dzinucľiu
অসমীয়া: আঁঠু
Atikamekw: Okitikw
Avañe'ẽ: Tenypy'ã
авар: Наку
Aymar aru: Qunquri
বাংলা: হাঁটু
Bahasa Banjar: Lintuhut
Bân-lâm-gú: Kha-thâu-u
български: Коляно
བོད་ཡིག: པུས་མོ།
bosanski: Koljeno
brezhoneg: Glin
català: Genoll
čeština: Koleno
chiShona: Mabvi
Cymraeg: Pen-glin
dansk: Knæ
Deitsch: Gnie
Deutsch: Kniegelenk
ދިވެހިބަސް: ކަކޫ
Ελληνικά: Γόνατο
Esperanto: Genuo
euskara: Belaun
فارسی: زانو
français: Genou
Gaeilge: Glúin
Gàidhlig: Glùn
galego: Xeonllo
贛語: 胠膝
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Tshit-thèu
한국어: 무릎
hrvatski: Koljeno
Ido: Genuo
Bahasa Indonesia: Lutut
interlingua: Genu
íslenska: Hné
italiano: Ginocchio
עברית: ברך
Basa Jawa: Dhengkul
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಮಂಡಿ
қазақша: Тізе
Kiswahili: Goti
Kreyòl ayisyen: Jenou
лакку: Ник
Latina: Genu
latviešu: Ceļa locītava
lietuvių: Kelis
lingála: Libɔ́ngɔ́
lumbaart: Genoeugg
magyar: Térd
मराठी: गुडघा
مازِرونی: زوندی
Bahasa Melayu: Lutut
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Kă-kók-tàu
Nederlands: Knie (anatomie)
नेपाली: घुँडा
नेपाल भाषा: पुलि
norsk: Kne
norsk nynorsk: Kne
occitan: Genolh
Pangasinan: Pueg
پنجابی: گوڈا
português: Joelho
română: Genunchi
Runa Simi: Qunqur
संस्कृतम्: जानु
Scots: Knee
sicilianu: Dinocchiu
Simple English: Knee
slovenčina: Kolenný kĺb
slovenščina: Koleno
Soomaaliga: Jilib (xubin)
کوردی: ئەژنۆ
српски / srpski: Koleno
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Koljeno
Basa Sunda: Tuur
suomi: Polvinivel
svenska: Knä
Tagalog: Tuhod
తెలుగు: మోకాలు
Türkçe: Diz
українська: Колінний суглоб
اردو: گھٹنا
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: تىز
Tiếng Việt: Đầu gối
Võro: Põlv
walon: Djino
Winaray: Tuhod
粵語: 膝頭