Acute Patella Injury

Acute patellla injury

An acute patella injury is an injury to the kneecap or patella. It often results from a direct blow or a fall onto the knee.


Medically reviewed by Dr. Chaminda Goonetilleke, 21st Dec. 2021


  • Sudden acute pain at the time of injury will likely be accompanied by swelling and bruising.
  • The patella itself will be painful and in more severe cases walking will be uncomfortable or impossible.
  • Specifically, localized kneecap pain or pain at the front of the knee.
  • Pain and swelling over the whole joint are visible if there is damage to other structures in your knee.
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What is an acute patella injury?

It is a sudden onset, acute traumatic injury to the patella. Mild injuries result in soft tissue injury or bruising. However, more servere cases involve a patella fracture.

Direct impact from a football boot, hockey stick, or other hard objects can cause a number of injuries including a fracture of the patella, dislocation of the patella, and damage to the cartilage under the patella (see CMP).

Patellofemoral pain is sometimes a complication to be aware of.

Patella injury treatment

If you suspect a patella fracture then your doctor will use an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis.

If there is no fracture then treat the injury conservatively with rest, cold therapy, NSAIDs non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen). In other words, rest and apply cold therapy until it is better.

Tape the patella away from any sore spots.

Read more on patellofemoral pain which can often occur following an acute patella injury.

Avoid squatting or walking downstairs. This places extra pressure on the patella.

Fractured patella

It is important though that a correct assessment of the X-ray is made. This is because some patella’s have a natural split in them anyway, called a bipartite patella.

If a fracture is confirmed and it is not a complete fracture then treatment involves applying a splint with your leg straight (in extension).

As the fracture heals over the following weeks the amount of bend in the leg allowed is increased.

Fractures that are complete or nearly complete will require surgery and fixation of the patella. Surgical repair of the quadriceps muscles may also be required. Rehabilitation following surgical repair is similar to that above.

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