The Kneecap (Patella) in Action - Fairview Health Services
 
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The Kneecap (Patella) in Action

As the leg moves, the kneecap moves, too. It slides up and down its track on the thighbone. But if the kneecap slides “off track”—even a little—pain and damage can result.

When the Kneecap is “On Track”

The kneecap is controlled by muscles and ligaments that work like a system of pulleys. This system includes the quadriceps muscles, retinacula, and patellar tendon. If all these parts pull in just the right way, the kneecap stays in place and glides easily in its track. Pressure is spread evenly on the back of the kneecap.

Image depicting muscles and ligaments work to keep the kneecap in place. It identified quadriceps muscles, the retinaculum on each side of the kneecap, and the patellar tendon.

Image showing the kneecap on track.

When the Kneecap Gets “Off Track”

An injury can cause some muscles or ligaments to pull too hard or not hard enough. When that happens, the kneecap no longer glides easily against the thighbone. Pressure may be spread unevenly on the back of the kneecap, causing wear and tear on the cartilage.

Image showing an off track knee cap. Quadriceps muscles, retinaculum on each side of the kneecap, and the patellar tendon are shown.

Image of the kneecap off track.

 

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