Chondromalacia Patella: Symptoms & Causes

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson goes over a condition known as chondromalacia patella. You'll learn its definition, why it occurs, what can make that happen, and the signs and symptoms this leads to.

What is Chondromalacia Patella?

Does your kneecap hurt? Hopefully, it isn't because you failed to pay a local mob boss in a timely manner. All kidding aside, if the kneecap does hurt, it could be due to a condition called chondromalacia patella. Your kneecap is known as the patella. The prefix 'chondro-' refers to cartilage and the suffix '-malacia' refers to the softening of something usually as a result of a problem.

Thus, chondromalacia patella refers to a condition where the cartilage found on the undersurface of the kneecap is soft and weakened.

Let's find out why this occurs and what it leads to in people.

The patella.


The patella is located inside the quadriceps femoris tendon. The quadriceps femoris is a muscle group we simply call the quads or thigh muscle. The quads are located on the thigh bone, the femur. Normally, the quads pull the patella in a straight line over the femur. However, people with chondromalacia patella often have a situation where the kneecap is pulled toward the outer aspect of the femur instead. This is a problem because it allows for the underside of the patella to brush up against the femur, damaging itself in the process and creating the signs and symptoms outlined in the next section.

Things that might predispose individuals to such a situation include the following:

  • Trauma to the knee, like a broken kneecap. Remember that mob boss? He's back!
  • Overuse, from sports.
  • Weakness, tightness, or misalignment of the muscles around the knee. Misaligned bones can cause the same problem.
  • An unusually shaped patella.
  • Flat feet, especially flat-footed runners.
  • Arthritis and infections of the knee joint.

Signs & Symptoms

So what can we expect in a person with such a kneecap? Well, people with this condition can experience any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Pain behind the kneecap, which is made worse by activity or sitting with the knee in a bent position for a long time. The pain might be described as dull and aching.
  • The knee might catch at a certain position or, instead, buckle.
  • A feeling like the kneecap is grinding when the knee is bent.
  • Swelling and a sensation of tightness around the knee.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account