The underlying etiology of anterior knee pain has been extensively studied. Despite many possible causes, often times the diagnosis is elusive. The most common causes in the young athlete are osteosynchondroses, patellar peritendinitis and tendinosis, synovial impingement, malalignment, and patellar instability. Less common causes are osteochondritis dissecans and tumors. It is always important to rule out underlying hip pathology and infections. When a diagnosis cannot be established, the patient is usually labeled as having idiopathic anterior knee pain. A careful history and physical examination can point to the correct diagnosis in the majority of cases. For most of these conditions, treatment is typically nonoperative with surgery reserved for refractory pain for an established diagnosis.

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