The Intercondylar Fossa of the Femur: Definition & Function

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

The intercondylar fossa plays an important role in keeping your knee joint stable. Learn how and why, as well as other great facts about the intercondylar fossa, by reading this lesson!

Knee Stability

Picture a 500lb sumo wrestler lunging toward his competitor during a match. Isn't it surprising that a sumo wrestler's relatively small knee joint can support his entire body weight without becoming dislocated? One of the reasons why the knee joint is able to withstand great forces without becoming dislocated is due to the intercondylar fossa.


The intercondylar fossa plays a role in keeping the knee joint stable, even in situations where great forces are applied to the knees such as in sumo wrestling.
sumo


What Exactly is the Intercondylar Fossa?

The intercondylar fossa is a groove that is located at the bottom rear of the femur, which is the long, thick bone that makes up the upper part of the leg. Try reaching down with both hands and feel on the outer parts of your knee joint, just on either side of the top of your knee cap. Do you feel the round bony prominences on both sides of the upper knee? The round prominence on the inner part of the knee is known as the medial condyle, and the round prominence on the outer part of the knee is called the lateral condyle. The space between those two condyles is the intercondylar fossa.


The intercondylar fossa is located at the bottom of the femur, between the lateral condyle and medial condyle.
femur


Function of the Intercondylar Fossa

The knee joint is made up of three main bones: the femur, tibia (long bone in the lower leg), and the patella (kneecap). As it was mentioned before, the intercondylar fossa helps to stabilize the knee joint. The reason why this groove at the bottom rear of the femur helps to stabilize the knee joint is that it is home to several ligaments of the knee.

The ligaments of the knee function primarily to keep the bones of the knee in their proper positions while the joint moves during walking, running, sitting, standing, and other movements. Several of these stabilizing ligaments are found in the intercondylar fossa. These ligaments include:

Ligament Found in the Intercondylar Fossa Description of Ligament
Oblique popliteal ligament This ligament attaches to the area right above the intercondylar fossa and then runs through this groove and connects to the tibia.
Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) This ligament attaches to the medial condyle of the femur and then runs through the intercondylar fossa and connects to the back of the tibia.
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) This ligament connects to the inner surface of the lateral condyle of the femur, runs down through the intercondylar fossa, and then connects to the front of the tibia.

The intercondylar fossa is the home to many important ligaments of the knee, including the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
knee joint

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