The purpose of this study is to investigate abnormal magnetic resonance image (MRI) findings of young active males with atraumatic anterior knee pain (AKP). Targeting young male soldiers, we prospectively gathered and analyzed 157 knee MRIs from patients with atraumatic AKP (AKP group) and 53 knee MRIs from patients without knee pain (control group). Abnormalities of the patellofemoral (PF) joint and extensor mechanism on MRI were more common in the AKP group than the control group (48% vs 13%,P< 0.001). The overall prevalence of medial plica (34% vs 13%,P= 0.004) and the prevalence of the thick medial plica (9% vs 0%,P= 0.023) were considerably higher in the AKP group. The cartilaginous sulcus angle in the AKP group without abnormalities on MRI was significantly higher than both the AKP group with abnormalities and the control group (145° vs 141° vs 142°, respectively,P= 0.001). Our results suggest that careful assessment of young, active males with atraumatic AKP is warranted regarding PF joint abnormalities, particularly the presence of medial plica and/or subtle abnormalities of the articular geometry. The results from the present study could be used for the management of patients with AKP.