knee anatomyThe knees are the largest joints in the body and the most complex. Each knee is made up of four major components: bone, cartilage, muscle and ligaments. Hampton Roads Orthopaedics Spine and Sports Medicine’s providers believe that patient education is a cornerstone of good orthopaedic health.  Below you will find a brief description of each of these components and what they do.

Bones of the Knee

    1. The tibia – better known as the shin bone, this is the weight bearing bone that makes up the bottom half of the leg.
    2. The femur – also called the thigh bone, it is the longest and strongest bone in the human body. It supports the upper body weight.
    3. The patella – commonly referred to as the kneecap, it sits at the front of the knee joint in the groove formed by the cartilage that extends from the bottom of the femur and top of the tibia
    4. The fibula – this bone is commonly called the calf bone.  It is not technically part of the knee but does run along the lateral side of the tibia in the leg.



Cartilage of the Knee

  1. Articular cartilage – also called Hyaline cartilage, it covers the bones where they meet at the knee joint and provides a slippery surface for the bones to move smoothly.
  2. Meniscus – two C-shaped structures provide a cushion to the joint to prevent the tibial and femoral heads from hitting or rubbing against one another.

Muscles of the Knee

  1. The quadriceps muscles – located at the front of the thigh, these muscles are connected to the knee joint via the quadriceps tendon and work to straighten the leg.
  2. The hamstring muscles – located at the back of the thigh and knee, these muscles bend the knee.

Ligaments of the Knee

  1. Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL)- a crossing ligament that attaches the back side of the tibia to the front of the femur. It keeps the knee from essentially falling forward. It also aids in twisting and rotation of the knee.
  2. Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)  – a crossing ligament that attaches the front of the tibia to the back of the femur. It keeps the knee from falling backwards or hyperextending.
  3. Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) – rests on the outside of the inner aspect of the knee joint, attaching the tibia to the femur. It aids in stability and strength of the knee.
  4. Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) – also called the fibular collateral ligament,  it is located on the outside (lateral side) of the knee and connects the tibia to the fibula. It works to stabilize the knee.


Want to learn more about protecting your knees from injury? Ask your provider for advice and tips on exercises you can do to keep your legs strong and healthy. Currently experiencing knee pain? Contact Hampton Roads Orthopaedics Spine and Sports Medicine today for an appointment!