When Do Babies Get Kneecaps?

When Do Babies Get Kneecaps?

A toddler is truly a bundle of joy. When you see the little one crawling on his all fours all around the room, your joys have no boundaries. These are priceless moments for any parent. With the advancement of technology, it is now possible to capture all these precious moments and make highly cherish-able memories. But have you noticed a thing? Will you be able to crawl on the floor so fast without hurting the knees? The little one does it with extreme ease. This raises lots of questions in the mind of the parent. The knees of babies are extremely soft and are slightly rubbery to touch. The first question that arises is that do babies have kneecaps? If yes, then when do babies get kneecaps?

What are Kneecaps Actually in Babies?

Whether babies have kneecaps or not is an extremely confusing question, which has ambiguous answers. Baby’s knees are absolutely different from those of adult’s knees. At the time of birth, the baby has a patella, but bone is not the component with which it is made. Rather the patella is made of cartilage. The cartilage slowly and gradually stiffens and turns into bone. This process is known as Ossification. Basically, all the bones are initially in cartilage form and they start turning into bone before the birth of the baby. However, the patella remains as cartilage and does not transform into bone even after birth. It takes quite some time for this piece of cartilage to turn into hard bone.

The process of ossification of the kneecap in humans begins around the age of three years. Right within the cartilage of the patella small areas of bone start developing and forming. This growth is gradual and finally, the cartilage is transformed into a bony kneecap. In fact, it is surprising to know that this process of ossification continues till the time of puberty when the while cartilage turns into bone. If you considered the kneecap as a piece of bone, then it can be said that babies are born without kneecaps. But if you think that kneecap is a cartilage in the middle of tendon connecting the femur, then babies are born with kneecaps. Therefore the question still remains answered completely.

Why Do We Have Kneecaps?

Have you ever wondered that kids fall on their knees so often but they start crawling again and even stand upright after falling? In toddlers, the knees take a lot of pressure and brunt. But the knees seem to be able to take the pressure excellently. But as one grows in age, the knees become less flexible. One of the most important joints in the body is that of the knee. It is formed by the intersection of the femur, which is also known as the thigh bone, the tibia, which is popularly known as the shin bone and the patella, which is the kneecap.

The bones are supported by a strong muscle group which is known as quadriceps and this extends down to the whole length of the femur. Near the knee, the quadriceps go on to forming the quadriceps tendon, which is a very tough kind of connective tissue. This tendon develops an attachment to the kneecap top. On the other side of the kneecap, the patella ligament, which is the connective tissue, continues in a downward direction and connects the top of the tibia and the bottom of the kneecap. The kneecap is in a groove (the trochlea), which is at the bottom of the femur. The kneecaps move or slide in forward as well as backward motion. With this setting, the quadriceps can be flexed and hence the knee can be moved.

When Do Babies Get Kneecaps?

As mentioned above, it actually depends on our view regarding what we consider as a kneecap. If we consider it as cartilage, then babies are born with kneecaps. But if we think that kneecaps are solid bones, then babies are not born with kneecaps. If you carefully look at the knees of the baby, you will see that they are much softer than adult knees. It seems that they have kind of cushion in the knees, which protects them from damage when they fall down.

Babies have a tendency of falling down and knees are the most common area of the body which get hurt. But just think that if the knees were bony as that of adults, there would be innumerable fractures in the knee of the little one. The cartilage is soft and has a rubbery effect. Thus, the pressure inflected on the knee during falling is managed by the cartilage well.

By the time the baby reaches 3 years, this soft cartilage starts stiffening and hardening and gradually turns into bone. This process does not end soon and continues till the individual reaches puberty. Gradually the kneecap becomes solid and bony structure and is completely transformed from the soft and rubbery cartilage texture it had initially.
Essential tips which can help in preventing knee injury

As a child, your knee could take a lot of pressure from falling and injuries. This was possible because there was no bone and there were no chances of fractures as well. But with aging, the kneecaps become bony and stiff and hence injury caused to the knee can become a truly troublesome issue. If you bust your kneecaps as an adult, it can be quite painful and take time to heal as well.

Mentioned Below Are Some Tips Which Can Keep Knee Injury at Bay

  • Stretching is mandatory before and after any kind of exercise, recreational activity or sports for warming up muscles.
  • Wearing seat belt in motor vehicles is mandatory.
  • See that the muscles are not strained during daily activities, hobbies or recreational activities. If you are using any kinds of equipment for the same, ensure that they are appropriate for your strength, ability and size.
  • Wearing shoes with good arch-support is important as the knee gets additional support through this.

Now that you have a fair idea on when do babies get kneecaps, you should concentrate more on taking care of the knee and the kneecaps so that you do not have problems in movement even when you have aged.

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad