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Popliteus Muscle - want to learn more about it?

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Popliteus Muscle

The popliteus muscle is a small muscle located at the knee joint.

Anatomy

It originates at the lateral condyle of the femur and the posterior horn of the lateral meniscus. From there it runs mediocaudally towards the tibia and inserts above the origin of the soleus muscle.

Popliteus muscle - dorsal view

In the course it lies within a compact fascia between the popliteal fossa and the joint capsule secured by the arcuate popliteal ligament. The innervation is supplied by the tibial nerve (L5-S2).

Popliteus muscle - dorsal view

Function

A general task of the popliteus muscle is to stabilize the dorsal knee region.

During the knee extension, the slight outward rotation (about 5º) of the tibia on the femur locks the knee joint (the so-called terminal rotation). The popliteus muscle is responsible for reversing this terminal rotation:

  • In open kinetic chain (i.e. the foot is not on the ground), the tibia is free to move. Therefore, the popliteus muscle acts on its insertion, inwardly rotating the tibia on the femur.
  • In closed kinetic chain (i.e. the foot is on the ground), the tibia cannot rotate. In this case, the popliteus muscle will act on its origin, outwardly rotating the femur on the tibia.

Furthermore the muscle pulls the lateral meniscus dorsally during the knee bend thus preventing its entrapment. Even though the popliteus muscle anatomically ranks among the flexors of the thigh musculature its ability to flex the knee is truly negligible.

Recommended video: Functions of the popliteus muscle
Functions and anatomy of the popliteus muscle shown with 3D model animation.

Clinical Aspects

The popliteus muscle may be injured in the scope of a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament or damages involving the lateral meniscus. In contrast, an isolated damage of the muscle is rather rare.

Clinically the affected patients present with an unnatural outward rotation of the tibia when bending the knee. Additionally other general symptoms often occur such as muscle swelling, edema or bleeding.

Popliteus Muscle - want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

Sign up for your free Kenhub account today and join over 852,397 successful anatomy students.

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

Show references

References:

  • M. Schünke/E. Schulte/U. Schumacher: Prometheus – LernAtlas der Anatomie – Allgemeine Anatomie und Bewegungssystem, 2.Auflage, Thieme Verlag (2007), S.478-479
  • W. Graumann/ D.Sasse: CompactLehrbuch der gesamten Anatomie – Band 2 – Bewegungsapparat, Schattauer Verlag (2003), S.171-172
  • R. Wirhed: Sportanatomie – Bewegungslehre, 3.Auflage, Schattauer Verlag (2001), S.170-171
  • A. Stäbler/B. Ertl-Wagner: Radiologie-Trainer Bewegungsapparat, 2.Auflage, Thieme Verlag (2012), S.6

Author:

  • Achudhan Karunaharamoorthy

Illustrators:

  • Popliteus muscle - dorsal view - Liene Znotina
  • Popliteus muscle - dorsal view - Liene Znotina
© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

Related Atlas Images

Muscles of the leg and knee

Main muscles of the lower extremity

Tibia and fibula

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