M.J. is 28 years old. She is involved in a car accident. Her right knee hits a sharp object and she sustains a deep, localized injury to her articular cartilage. "You've sustained chondromalacia to your femoral condyle" says the orthopedist, "and you need surgery". The surgery is scheduled, but the insurance company suddenly denies coverage to M.J. Why? The insurance company discovers that as a teenager another doctor had already diagnosed M.J. with chondromalacia. Thus her condition is 'pre-existing'. Ridiculous? Of course. The two doctors have used the word chondromalacia to mean two different conditions. Had both her doctors used better, more specific terms M.J. would not have to fight her insurance company.
'Chondromalacia' is at this point in time a nonsense term first coined in Germany in 1906.
Investigators in the early 20th century examined the kneecaps of cadavers and noted that the cartilage was soft. In some cases, the cartilage appeared frayed and/or ulcerated. They made the assumption that these findings in cadavers could explain knee pain in the living.
They used the term Chondromalacia, which in English translates to 'soft cartilage'.
In the 21st century there are a few problems with the use of this term: