(Broken Kneecap; Fracture, Patella; Kneecap Fracture; Patellar Fracture)
Pronounced: pah-TEL-ah FRAK-choor
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.
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Some common causes of this injury include:
Sharp blow to the knee
Excessive stress on the knee
Factors that may increase your risk of a patella fracture include:
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
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:
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:
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.
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
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.org CANADIAN RESOURCES
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Henry P, Panwitz B, et al. Rehabilitation of a post-surgical patella fracture.
Patellar (kneecap) fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedics website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated January 2017. Accessed August 30, 2017.
Stress fractures. The American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed August 30, 2017.
Tay G, Warrier S, et al. Indirect patella fractures following ACL reconstruction.
Last reviewed September 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 9/30/2013