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The knee is the largest joint in the human body. In the most recent report of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the knee is also one of the most commonly injured joints. Each year, more than 5.5 million orthopaedic visits are made due to knee injuries. The joint’s high susceptibility to injuries is mainly attributed to its intrinsic anatomical structure and its function during weight-bearing. Moreover, because of the increasing problem of obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, knee injuries are one of the leading causes of disability in modern society.
Knee injuries are complex because they typically involve more than damaged structure. The anterior cruciate ligament, the major stabilizing ligament of the knee, is frequently the cause of knee pain and injury in young, healthy adults. ACL injuries can be devastating. A significant number of patients with ACL injuries require reconstruction, prolonged rehabilitation and as a result, high health care costs. For these reasons, ACL injury prevention has been the focus of many researchers over the last few decades.
Neuromusclar training programs consisting of specialized stretching and strengthening exercises of the knee’s dynamic stabilizers, agility training and plyometrics have been found to be the most effective strategies to prevent anterior cruciate ligament injuries. These exercise programs are designed to help clients regain and maintain the functions of the knee without putting much force on the ACL. Some of these exercises are introduced in the last section of this guide.
Anatomy of the Knee
The knee joint is the largest joint in the body; however, it is highly susceptible to injuries. This has been attributed to its complex anatomical structure. A significant number of knee injuries involve the anterior cruciate ligament, most especially in non-contact sporting activities. Understanding the anatomy of the knee joint, specifically the ACL, is fundamental to understanding the mechanisms of ACL injuries, development of signs and symptoms, treatment and exercise.
The knee joint is composed of 4 essential bones: the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone), fibula (calf bone) and patella (kneecap). The femur is attached to the tibia by the tough ligaments and a knee capsule. The tips of these bones are covered by articular cartilages that keep them from grinding each other during movements. Most knee movements occur between the femur, patella and tibia.
The femur is the major weight bearing bone of the upper leg. This important and highly demanding function is evidenced by its size and structure. The femur is the largest and strongest bone in the human body. It provides attachment sites to muscles that move the knee. At the lower end of the femur are two condyles – the round projections at the end of the bone; these are called the medial or inner condyle and the lateral or outer condyle. The medial condyle, the larger of the two, is more involved during weight bearing activities.
Tibia and fibula
The bones of the lower leg are the tibia and the fibula. They run parallel to each other, starting from the knee to the ankle. The fibula articulates with both ends of the tibia, allowing a slight degree of movement.
This is part 1 of this series. I will be putting up the next part over the next few days.
If you are interested in knee pain, knee injuries or ACL injuries, these other posts may interest you:
If you are looking for stuff with more details on knee pain and ACL injuries, you can attend the live course called Exercise Rehabilitation of the Knee or instantly download my video presentation on Exercises for Prevention, Rehabilitation and Overcoming Knee Injuries.
Rick Kaselj, MS