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(Broken Kneecap; Fracture, Patella; Kneecap Fracture; Patellar Fracture)
A patella fracture is a break through the large, movable bone at the front of the knee.
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Causes may be:
- A blow to the knee
- A fall onto the knee
- Forced stress on the muscle that extends the knee
This problem is more common in men. Other things that may raise the risk are:
- Participation in contact sports such as football and soccer
- Having health problems that weaken bones, such as osteoporosis
- Low muscle mass
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done, paying close attention to the knee.
Images will be taken of your knee. This can be done with:
Treatment will depend on how severe the injury is. It can take weeks to months to heal. Medicine will be needed to ease swelling and pain. Other options are:
A mild fracture may be treated with a cast to keep the knee from moving as it heals. A brace, cane, or crutches may be needed after the cast comes off. Exercises will also need to be done to promote strength and movement.
Some people may need surgery if the patella is in pieces. Surgery may use pins and screws to put the pieces back together. Some people may need part or all of the kneecap removed, but this is not common.
Exercises will need to be done after surgery to promote strength and movement.
Most fractures happen due to accidents. Healthy bones and muscles may help prevent injury. This may be done through diet and exercise.
American Physical Therapy Association
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Jarraya M, Diaz LE, et al. Imaging of patellar fractures. Insights Imaging. 2017 Feb;8(1):49-57.
Patella fracture—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/patella-fracture-emergency-management. Accessed September 23, 2019.
Patellar (kneecap) fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedics website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00523. Updated January 2017. Accessed September 23, 2019.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
- Review Date: 09/2019
- Update Date: 07/14/2020