A kneecap fracture is a break (fracture) in the kneecap (patella). The medical term is a patellar fracture. There are different kinds of patellar fractures:
A broken kneecap occurs from a direct injury to your kneecap. This usually happens from falling onto your knee or by being hit by an object. An avulsion fracture of the kneecap can occur from jumping or running.
Symptoms include pain, tenderness, swelling, and trouble walking or straightening your leg. You may hear a popping or snapping sound at the time of the injury.
Your provider will review your symptoms, ask how the injury occurred and examine you. He or she will order X-rays.
To treat this condition:
You will be placed in a brace, a knee immobilizer or a cast to prevent your knee from moving. You will not be able to move your knee for 6 to 8 weeks. Some broken kneecaps need surgery.
Your provider will do follow-up X-rays to make sure your fracture has healed properly. You will begin rehabilitation exercises when the broken kneecap has healed. Follow your provider’s instructions for doing exercises to help you recover.
The effects of a broken kneecap may last several months. It may take 6 to 8 weeks for the knee to heal. You will then need to do rehabilitation exercises for several weeks. Sometimes knee pain can come back after your fracture has healed.
Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your activities depends on how soon your knee recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury has occurred. In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better. The goal of rehabilitation is to return you to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.
You may safely return to your normal activities when, starting from the top of the list and progressing to the end, each of the following is true:
Most broken kneecaps are caused by accidents that cannot be prevented. If you are in a sport that has knee protection, be sure that your equipment fits properly.