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What are the bones of the knee?

Scott D. Martin, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
The knee joint is the junction of three bones:
  • the thighbone, or femur
  • the shin bone, or tibia, the larger front bone of your calf
  • the kneecap, or patella.
At its lower end, the femur divides into two rounded knobs called condyles that support the body's weight on the bone of the lower leg, the tibia. The top of the tibia is rather flat with a middle bump. Unlike the beautiful fit between bones found in many other joints, the knee's mismatch in shape allows for complex movement but is quite unstable, like two doorknobs balanced on an uneven plate. Stability is supplied by strong ligaments on the inside and outside of the joints.

The patella is a small, flat bone that floats in front of the knee joint. The patella moves within a groove between the two condyles of the femur. Your patella protects other knee structures and applies leverage to help straighten the joint.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
There are three bones in the knee joint: the end of the femur or thighbone, the end of the tibia or shinbone, and the patella or knee cap. This animation shows how the bones of the knee work together to form the joint.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.