• Patella Fracture

    (Broken Kneecap; Fracture, Patella; Kneecap Fracture; Patellar Fracture)


    A patella fracture occurs when there is a break in the patella, better known as the kneecap. The patella is a large, movable bone at the front of the knee.
    The Kneecap
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    Some common causes of this injury include:
    • Sharp blow to the knee
    • Excessive stress on the knee

    Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your risk of a patella fracture include:
    • Increased age
    • Postmenopause
    • Decreased muscle mass
    • Decreased bone mass— osteoporosis
    • Participation in contact sports such as football and soccer
    • Obesity , which places strain on muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments
    • Violence, such as car or car-pedestrian accidents


    Patella fracture may cause:
    • Sudden, excruciating pain in the kneecap
    • Swelling, bruising, and tenderness
    • Inability to extend the knee
    • Difficulty walking


    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will look closely at the knee to see if there are signs of fracture. A straight leg test may be done.
    Images can evaluate your knee and surrounding structures. These may include:


    Treatment options include the following:

    Nonsurgical Approach

    After the tests, the doctor will determined whether surgery is needed. If the patella is not badly injured, the doctor will place the knee in a cast . This cast may need to be worn for 6 weeks. After that, a knee brace and physical therapy will be needed. A cane or crutches may be needed.
    Medication will be advised to reduce swelling and pain.


    If the patella is in pieces, then surgery will be needed. There are 2 kinds of surgery that are commonly used to treat this injury:
    • Open reduction-internal fixation surgery —The doctor uses pins and screws to put the broken pieces back together.
    • Patellectomy—Rarely, the doctor removes part of the kneecap or the entire kneecap.
    After surgery, physical therapy will be needed. This can involve range-of-motion exercises and stretching . In some cases, another surgery will be needed to remove the pins and screws.
    Depending on the injury, recovery can take weeks to several months.


    To help reduce your chance of a patella fracture:
    • Do not put yourself at risk for trauma to the bone.
    • Do weight-bearing exercises to build strong bones.
    • Build strong muscles to support the knee, prevent falls, and to stay active and agile.
    • Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.


    American Physical Therapy Association http://www.orthopt.org

    Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://orthoinfo.org


    Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org

    Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org


    Henry P, Panwitz B, et al. Rehabilitation of a post-surgical patella fracture. Physiotherapy. 2000;86:139-142.

    Patellar (kneecap) fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedics website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00523. Updated January 2017. Accessed August 30, 2017.

    Stress fractures. The American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acfaom.org/information-for-patients/common-conditions/stress-fractures. Accessed August 30, 2017.

    Tay G, Warrier S, et al. Indirect patella fractures following ACL reconstruction. Acta Orthopaedica. 2006;77:494-500.

    Revision Information

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