Dislocated Knee

Dislocated knee

A dislocated knee is where the femur or thigh bone and the tibia or shin bone are moved apart. This is different from a patella dislocation where the kneecap only dislocates outwards and round the side of the knee and is a far more serious and traumatic injury. It is rare in sports, more likely to occur following a road traffic accident or similar.

Symptoms of a dislocated Knee

  • A dislocated knee is a sudden very traumatic injury.
  • Sudden severe pain will be felt and joint deformity.
  • Instant swelling, and rapid bruising will be seen.
  • The athlete will be unable to weight bear at all.

If there is any numbness in the lower leg or foot then nerve damage should be suspected and no pulse in the foot or a pale, cold foot indicates blood vessel damage. It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you have suffered such a traumatic injury as this.

Dislocated knee explained

If a dislocation is suspected, then medical attention should be sought immediately. An X-ray can confirm that the joint is dislocated. An MRI scan may be used to detect soft tissue injuries.

Knee dislocations occur following highly traumatic injuries to the knee. Often road traffic accidents are the cause of such an injury, although they may occasionally happen from sporting tackles or falls.

For a knee dislocation to occur, there is significant soft tissue damage, especially to the ligaments which support the joint. The ACL and PCL are almost always ruptured, as well as possible damage to the MCL, LCL, and cartilage. Other complications can include nerve and blood vessel damage.

A knee dislocation is different from a subluxation, which is a partial dislocation, where the bones separate slightly and then move back together.


The knee joint is repositioned, known as reduced by a surgeon or qualified medical practitioner. The blood vessels and nerves should be carefully monitored for damage. Surgical reconstruction is usually required to repair torn ligaments and cartilage.

A thorough rehabilitation program is then required to regain full knee mobility, strength, and balance.

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