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Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

The kneecap, or patella, is a small triangular bone at the front of the knee that moves as the joint bends. It glides up and down along a track at the end of the thighbone (femur) and gives the front thigh muscles (quadriceps) leverage for straightening the leg. The patella also protects the joint during collisions and falls.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome occurs when the patella cartilage is stressed by overuse or poor alignment. High-impact sports – such as football, basketball, soccer, tennis and running – can overtax the cartilage or aggravate existing abnormal kneecap alignment. In addition, running on uneven surfaces, such as hills or trails, or playing a sport on a different surface than usual, such as a hard tennis court rather than a grass court, may increase the likelihood of patellofemoral pain.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome may indicate that the protective cartilage under the kneecap is wearing down, which can eventually lead to bone loss and arthritis.

Our Approach to Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

This condition responds best to a team-based approach, with experts collaborating to ensure that each patient regains normal knee mechanics, strength and function. Our world-class team of orthopedic surgeons, primary care sports medicine doctors, physical therapists and athletic trainers works with you to address your specific condition and meet your goals.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-orthopedics

    One of the nation's best for orthopedic care

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.