Anterior knee pain factsheet


Anterior knee pain is when pain is at the front of the knee or near the patella, also known as the kneecap. 

Anterior knee pain is common in children during rapid growth, like puberty, or when playing sports. This type of pain is generally more common in girls.

 Signs and symptoms

Your child may tell you their knee feels sore or painful. Pain can get worse when children:

  • play sport
  • sit for long periods
  • climb up stairs.

Usually, there are no physical signs of anterior knee pain. Sometimes, the knee can look swollen, but the joint usually has no damage.


See your local doctor as soon as possible if your child is complaining of knee pain.

The doctor will check your child’s knee and other joints, like the hips, to make sure there are no other issues causing the pain.

Some issues that can cause knee pain include:

  • inflammation around the knee joint
  • irritation or inflammation of the soft tissue and ligaments around the kneecap
  • pain that is referred from an issue with the hips
  • osteochondritis dissecans – a condition that causes cracks in the bone cartilage
  • stress on the bones and tendons from physical activity or rapid growth
  • a kneecap that is out of alignment
  • a bony tumour.

If your child has any of these issues, they may be referred to an orthopaedic specialist or a physiotherapist for treatment. If anterior knee pain is not caused by any of these issues, it will usually go away when your child stops growing, or they rest from activity for a period.


Before starting any treatment, other issues causing pain will be ruled out.

Surgery is only necessary if there is another medical condition causing the knee pain. 

Treatment usually includes seeing a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist will design an exercise and stretching program to help your child build strength and reduce the pain. 

They may also recommend strategies to give extra support to the knee, including:

  • wearing an elastic knee guard 
  • taping the knee.

Anterior knee pain with no other issues should get better when your child stops growing or rests from physical activities like sports.

Last updated Tuesday 27th February 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024