Anatomy of a Knee Injury

They may be small, but they’re awfully mighty! It’s important to understand the anatomy of the knee because so much is going on inside this amazing structure to keep us upright and mobile. Often, when patients experience knee pain that is not responding to treatment as expected, we have to look at the other components of the knee to find the source of the pain. 

Bones – Bones are the building blocks of the knee. There are three large bones in the knee: the femur (the thigh above the knee), the tibia (the shin below the knee), and the kneecap, which is known to orthopedic physicians as the patella.

At Arizona Bone and Joint Specialists, we often see patients with arthritic, fractured, broken, or dislocated bones or joints. We recommend patients come to our office when a knee bone injury occurs because we have X-ray capabilities in our office so we can see if any bone fragments have come free and require removal. We can also use X-ray imaging to tell if a fracture is stable, open, or displaced. The types of fractures depend on how intact the bone still is. If the bone is not lined up to heal properly, surgery may be required to ensure the knee grows back together as it should.

Meniscus – The meniscus is well known because a torn meniscus is a very common sports injury, both in the professional and recreational sports. The knee has many functions, but one of its main jobs is to absorb the shock when walking, running, or jumping. The meniscus helps the knee do this.

Meniscal tears, although common, can put athletes on the sidelines for months. The knee is very flexible, but when it is twisted too far, the meniscus can tear, leaving a very painful injury. There are many ways to damage the meniscus, but they all can leave athletes with weak knees, limited mobility, and pain. We can prescribe pain medication and recommend rest, but often, a meniscal injury will need the attention of an orthopedic surgeon to be repaired using minimally invasive surgeries.

Ligaments – Ligaments are, at the most basic level, what keeps the bones of the knee together. Like the meniscus, they also help with knee stability and flexibility. They can be found all over the knee: in and around the bone, in the joints, and on the sides of the knee.

Another common sports injury that our physicians often see is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. This can occur from twisting and jumping just like a meniscal tear, so patients should see our orthopedic experts to find out exactly what part of the knee has been damaged.

Since there are several ligaments connected all throughout the knee, many other injuries can stem from the ligaments including collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) full or partial tears.

Tendons – Tendons connect the muscles to the bones. They can tear in the same way that ligaments and the meniscus get torn, although tendon injuries tend to occur more often in middle-aged people than in young athletes. If conservative treatment methods do not work to allow the tendons to heal on their own, surgery may be required to re-attach the tendon to the bone or muscle. This is often the case when the tendon is completely ripped off, with no base to heal.

Arizona Bone and Joint Specialists is located in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona and have convenient onsite services including physical therapy and imaging. For more information, make an appointment by calling the Scottsdale office at 602-493-9361 or the Phoenix office at 602-863-2040

The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.