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Chondromalacia patella

  • Definition

    Chondromalacia patella is the softening and breakdown of the tissue (cartilage) that lines the underside of the kneecap (patella).

    It is a common cause of anterior knee pain.

    Alternative Names

    Patellofemoral syndrome; Knee pain - chondromalacia

    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Chondromalacia of the patella occurs in adolescents and young adults.

    The condition is more common in females. It can be related to the abnormal position of the knee.

    Your kneecap (patella) sits over the front of your knee joint. As you bend or straighten your knee, the underside of the patella glides over the bones that make up the knee.

    Strong tendons help attach the patella to the bones and muscles that surround the knee. These tendons are called:

    • The patellar tendon (where the kneecap attaches to the shin bone)
    • The quadriceps tendon (where the thigh muscles attach to the top of the kneecap)

    Problems begin when the kneecap does not move properly and rubs against the lower part of the thigh bone. This may occur because:

    • The kneecap is in an abnormal position (also called poor alignment of the patellofemoral joint)
    • There is tightness or weakness of the muscles on the front and back of your thigh
    • You are doing too much activity that places extra stress on the kneecap (such as running, jumping or twisting, skiing, or playing soccer)
    • You have flat feet

    Chondromalacia of the patella can also be a sign of arthritis of the kneecap, which is usually seen in older people.

    People who have previously had a dislocation, fracture, or other injury to the kneecap are more likely to develop chondromalacia.