The human patella is one of the most vital bones, enabling many common activities the body carries out. The small structure sustains a majority of the body's weight. As babies, we are born without kneecaps. Instead, we have cartilaginous placeholders that fully ossify by about age five or six. The patella is more than just a simple covering. Without it, something as simple as taking a step can result in painful complications.


1. Structure

The patella is a flat, circular sesamoid bone -- a bone embedded in muscles or tendons -- with a shape similar to an apostrophe. It is embedded in the fascia lata, a deep enclosure in the thigh, and is the center of the joint. The patella connects to the patellar ligament and the tendon of the rectus femoris, a muscle that flexes the hip. The back of the bone has specialized cartilage that ensures low-friction, lubricated movement between it and the trochlear groove of the femur.

sesamoid cartilage patella Jan-Otto / Getty Images

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