There are a variety of causes that could be the cause of knee pain. Two weeks ago we highlighted a few causes of pain on the side of the knees; we will tackle a few more just to clear up the myths surrounding this kind of pain particularly in the front of the knee.

Front Knee Pain In Adolescents

Knee pain
Anterior knee pain

Children around the age of 10-16 typically suffer with knee pain as a result of over-activity in sport, and can also be affected by growing. Chronic pain in the front and center of the knee (anterior knee pain) is common among active, healthy young people, especially girls.
In teenagers, a number of factors may be involved.

  • Imbalance of thigh muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings) that support the knee joint
  • Poor flexibility
  • Problems with alignment of the legs between the hips and the ankles
  • Using improper sports training techniques or equipment
  • Overdoing sports activities.

The cause of anterior knee pain might vary based on your age, level of activity, and your chosen sports. We see people who are inactive and suffer from pain in the front of the knee, and we also see people who are highly trained and disciplined who are suffering from knee pain. 

Conditions Of Front Knee Pain

It is important to note that the names of these conditions do not necessarily mean that is it affects only runners or jumpers, they are just names. Therefore it can occur in anyone due to one cause or the other in a person.

Runner’s knee

This is also called patellofemoral pain syndrome is a term used to refer to anterior knee pain that is patella related. The patella is the bone at the front of the knee otherwise known as the kneecap. It is characterized by knee pain in ascending/descending stairs, sitting with knees bent, kneeling, and squatting, and swelling may sometimes occur.

Jumper’s Knee

Jumper’s knee or patellar tendonitis is an overuse injury that results in pain at the front of the knee, specifically at the bottom of the kneecap. Overuse from running or jumping, causes inflammation, or more likely, degeneration of the patella tendon. The bottom of the kneecap will feel very tender and may seem larger than the other knee. It is likely to ache and feel stiff after exercise, and neglecting this injury can cause it to become worse and a chronic problem. We see the same symptoms in children but under a different name, Osgood schlatter’s disease covered below.

Osgood Schlatter’s disease

Osgood Schlatter’s disease is a very common cause of anterior knee pain in children between the ages of 10 and 15 years old. Pain at the top of the shin, just below the kneecap, is the main symptom becoming swollen and inflamed. Symptoms will worsen with exercise and improve with rest.

It is something children will usually grow out of, but treatment and ‘management’ of this injury are essential.

Chondromalacia patella

Chondromalacia patella (CMP) involves damage to the articular cartilage under the patella. Symptoms are similar to patellofemoral pain at the front of the knee. The kneecap rubs on the bone underneath causing swelling and pain. Pain can worsen when walking downstairs or after sitting for long periods. A grinding or clicking feeling may be felt when moving the knee.

Housemaid’s knee & knee bursitis

Housemaid’s knee, also known as pre-patellar bursitis or knee bursitis, is a swelling of the bursa at the front of the knee. A bursa is a small sac of fluid whose function is to lubricate the movement between tendons and bone. Anterior knee pain and tenderness at the front of the kneecap is the main symptom and may be accompanied by swelling. A lump may be visible and the kneecap may be warm to touch. Kneeling will often be painful.

Infrapatellar bursitis occurs when the infrapatellar bursa below the kneecap becomes inflamed.  Pain at the front of the knee and swelling are the main symptoms. The symptoms are similar to those of Jumper’s knee.

In light of the following conditions it is best to seek medical advise regarding any knee pain you may experience. Early diagnosis is key to a good prognosis.


  1. Manual of musculoskeletal medicine / Grant Cooper, Joseph E. Herrera. 2008

Written By:
Joy W. Waihenya
Physical therapist


Front Knee Pain

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