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Adolescent Anterior Knee Pain

Chronic pain in the front and center of the knee (anterior knee pain) is common among active, healthy young people, especially girls.

It is usually not caused by any particular abnormality in the knee and does not mean that the knee will be damaged by continuing to do activities.

Pain located in the upper shinbone area below the kneecap is a different problem, and information about this can be found at Osgood-Schlatter Disease (Knee Pain)


In many cases, the true cause of anterior knee pain may not be clear. The complex anatomy of the knee joint that allows it to bend while supporting heavy loads is extremely sensitive to small problems in alignment, activity, training, and overuse. Pressure may pull the kneecap sideways in its groove, causing pain behind the kneecap.

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 pain usually begins gradually. You might experience these common symptoms:

  • Popping or crackling sounds in the knee when you climb stairs or stand up and walk after prolonged sitting.
  • Pain at night
  • Pain during activities that repeatedly bend the knee (i.e., jumping, squatting, running, and other exercise, especially involving weight-lifting).
  • Pain that causes your knees to give way (buckle), although this is uncommon
  • Pain related to a change in activity level or intensity, playing surface, or equipment.
  • Thigh muscle (quadriceps) weakness may develop if the pain persists and limits your normal activity.

If your knee pain is lasting, see your doctor to diagnose the cause of the pain and to get treatment.

The adolescent anterior knee pain syndrome is not usually associated with symptoms like clicking, locking, snapping, or giving way of the knee. These symptoms suggest a mechanical problem in the knee and are reasons to see your doctor.

Contact Parkland's knee specialists to receive comprehensive evaluation and management for knee problems.

For an appointment, please call 214-590-1920 to speak with a care coordinator who will quickly arrange a visit with one of our specialists to help with your problem.