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Definition of Genu

Genu: The Latin word for the knee. When the knee is referred to in medicine, it is just called the knee. However, the word "genu" is also used in medicine as in: genu recurvatum (hyperextension of the knee), genu valgum (knock knee) and genu varum (bowleg).

The knee (or genu, if you are into Latin) is a joint which has three parts. The thigh bone (femur) meets the large shin bone (tibia) forming the main knee joint. This joint has an inner (medial) and an outer (lateral) compartment. The kneecap (patella) joins the femur to form a third joint, called the patellofemoral joint.

The knee joint is surrounded by a joint capsule with ligaments strapping the inside and outside of the joint (collateral ligaments) as well as crossing within the joint (cruciate ligaments). These ligaments provide stability and strength to the knee joint.

Knee Joint Illustration - Genu
The meniscus is a thickened cartilage pad between the two joints formed by the femur and tibia. The meniscus acts as a smooth surface for the joint to move on. The knee joint is surrounded by fluid-filled sacs called bursae, which serve as gliding surfaces that reduce friction of the tendons. Below the kneecap, there is a large tendon (patellar tendon) which attaches to the front of the tibia bone. There are large blood vessels passing through the area behind the knee (referred to as the popliteal space).

The large muscles of the thigh move the knee. In the front of the thigh the quadriceps muscles extend the knee joint. In the back of the thigh, the hamstring muscles flex the knee. The knee also rotates slightly under guidance of specific muscles of the thigh.

The knee functions to allow movement of the leg and is critical to normal walking. The knee flexes normally to a maximum of 135 degrees and extends to 0 degrees. The bursae, or fluid-filled sacs, serve as gliding surfaces for the tendons to reduce the force of friction as these tendons move. The knee is a weightbearing joint. Each meniscus serves to evenly load the surface during weight- bearing and also adds in disbursing joint fluid for joint lubrication.

Source: MedTerms™ Medical Dictionary
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=8821
Last Editorial Review: 8/28/2013

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