Acute Patella Injury

Acute patellla injury

An acute patella injury is an injury to the kneecap or patella from a direct blow or fall onto the knee. This could include bruising or soft tissue injury but in more severe cases a fracture of the patella is also possible. Patellofemoral pain is sometimes a complication to be aware of.



  • 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.
  • Pain may be localized to the kneecap or front of the knee, but if other structures have been injured then the whole joint may be painful and swollen.

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

Patella injury treatment

If a fracture of the patella is suspected then an X-ray should be done. If there is no fracture then the injury is usually treated conservatively with rest, cold therapy and NSAID’s non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen).

In other words, rest and apply cold therapy until it is better. Taping the patella away from any sore spots is also done. Read more on patellofemoral pain which can often occur following an acute patella injury. Activities to avoid are squatting or walking downstairs which place pressure on the patella.

Fractured patella

It is important though that a correct assessment of the X-ray is made as 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 would involve applying a splint with the leg straight (in extension). As the fracture heals over the following weeks the amount of bend in the leg allowed is increased.

Fractures which 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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