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Tendons in the Knee

Saptakee Sengupta
Though the knee is one of the most important joints in the body, many people don't take adequate care of it and ignore any pain from the knee area, hoping it will just go away in time. However, if the injury is to the tendons of the knee, then it is essential to get treated as soon as possible.
The tendons of the knee form an intricate network that help in the proper movement of knee joints. Along with this, the ligaments and bones play a key role to bring out proper muscular coordination.
With age, the tendons gradually lose strength and become brittle. Their elasticity is also reduced causing terrible knee pain. This condition is often faced by middle-aged people, and the medical terminology for inflammation of the knees is known as knee tendonitis.
Anatomy of the knee is complex, being the largest joint of the body. Ligaments and tendons in the knee are the connecting junctions of bones to bones or bones to muscle. The 4 major ligaments present in knee joints are:
  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL)
  • Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL)
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
  • Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL)
These joints help in connecting either the interior (MCL, LCL) or the exterior (ACL, PCL) portions of the bones, which are of 3 types, the femur, the patella, and the tibia. Muscles and tendons of the knee are interconnected with each other. Muscles surround the joints and are divided into 3 categories, namely the sartorius, the quadriceps, and the patella.
Contraction of knee is brought about by the hamstring muscles. Tendons are present at the end of muscles providing attachment to the bones. While describing the anatomy of a knee, we cannot miss out cartilage tissues. The two types of cartilage present in our knees are the fibrocartilage and the articular cartilage.
The fibrocartilage, also known as the meniscus, makes the knees more congruent and offers protection from shock and injuries. Articular cartilage reduces friction between bones during movement. The structure of tendons shall be explained in following segment.

Quadriceps Tendon

Attachment of the four quadriceps muscles (vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, rectus femoris) to the patella is brought about by the quadriceps tendon. Quadriceps help in extension of the knee muscles. It's also a fact that quadriceps tendons are most vulnerable to tendonitis, giving rise to a sprained knee.

Patellar Tendon

The patellar tendon is also known as patellar ligament since it is present between two bones. It attaches the tibia to the patella through the tibial tubercle. The average width of the patellar tendon is 30 mm. It completes the attachment of quadriceps to the lower legs quite effectively. Patellar tendonitis is very common among athletes.

Iliotibial Band

As the name suggests, this is a very long tendon that attaches the tensor fascia latae muscle (TFL) to the knee on the lateral side. TFL provides medial rotation of the tibia. It is also known as the hip abductor.
Extension or flexing of the knee pushes the muscle above the iliotibial band on the top of the fibula. Tightness of this tendon causes knee irritation and inflammation. Injury of the iliotibial band is known as friction syndrome.

Hamstring Tendon

The last part of the knee tendon is known as the hamstring tendon, running along the posterior portion of the thigh. Hamstring tendons are also known as knee flexors.
Hamstring tendonitis, because of its position, is more often injured while swimming, playing badminton, basketball, tennis, and soccer. It is present at the juncture of tibia and fibula running along the lateral and medial sides of the knee.
Sportspersons are always at a higher risk of developing knee tendonitis. Inflammation of the knee muscles is a very painful condition that restricts movement of the knees. The joints swell causing redness. A sharp pain is experienced while trying to bend the knee, i.e, while descending or ascending stairs.
Home remedies include ice compress and light physiotherapy exercises for knee pain. An X-ray is always suggested to know the intensity of the injury. Painkillers and treatment considerably subside the pain.
If you are regularly engaged in sporting activities, make sure you take adequate care to avoid any injury to the knees.