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The bones of the knee, the femur and the tibia, meet to form a hinge joint.
The joint is protected in front by the patella (kneecap). The patella forms the patello femoral joint with the femur behind.
The knee joint is cushioned by articular cartilage that covers the ends of the tibia and femur, as well as the underside of the patella. The lateral meniscus and medial meniscus are pads of cartilage that further cushion the joint, acting as shock absorbers between the bones.
Ligaments help to stabilize the knee. The collateral ligaments run along the sides of the knee and limit sideways motion. The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, connects the tibia to the femur at the center of the knee. Its function is to limit rotation and forward motion of the tibia. (A damaged ACL is replaced in a procedure known as an anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction) The posterior cruciate ligament, or PCL (located just behind the ACL) limits backward motion of the tibia.
These components of your knee, along with the muscles of your leg, work together to manage the stress your knee receives as you walk, run and jump.
The structure of the knee-joint has two effects. Firstly, the knee is a very stable joint, by virtue of its strong binding ligaments and the protective effect of the muscles which control the joint’s movements. Secondly, the joint has quite a wide freedom of movement, because the bones are not closely bound within their own configuration. The knee is one of the three major joints in the leg which transmit loading forces between one’s body and the ground. Its stability helps to keep us upright on our feet when we are standing, walking, hopping or jumping.