CNY Orthopedic Sports Medicine, PC: Injury: Patella Malalignment/Dislocation

Injuries and Conditions: Knee: Patella Malalignment/Dislocation

A displaced patella occurs when the kneecap (patella) slips out of its groove on the thigh bone (femur). Without the kneecap in its proper position, the knee will not be able to lock into place or move across its normal range of motion.
  • Injuries typically cause very severe pain and usually require medical attention to correct.
  • A dislocated patella is usually the result of an activity in which the knee is forced out of its correct position during running and cutting movements.
  • Often, the doctor will be able to reposition the knee cap by manipulating the joint. However, surgery may be necessary to restore the normal function of the knee.
  • Some individuals experience repeated dislocations which can be popped back into place. Though these repeated dislocations may be less painful, medical attention should be sought to correct the recurring injury.

  • Signs and Symptoms
  • Excruciating pain in the knee at the time of injury.
  • A feeling of unsteadiness or the tendency for the knee to "give way".
  • Immediate swelling of the knee followed by bruising.
  • Loss of function and severe pain when attempting to move the knee.
  • A visible deformity in the knee if the dislocated bones have locked into place (bones may reposition themselves and leave no deformity, though damage has still occurred).
  • Numbness or partial paralysis below the dislocation as a result of pressure pinching or cutting blood vessels and nerves.

    Contact the Doctor if ...
  • The patient has the signs and symptoms of Patellar Malalignment/Dislocation.
  • The patient has signs of infection.

  • Common Causes of Injury
  • Injuries usually occur during athletic activities and are common in running, jumping or during sudden changes of direction. A sharp blow to the knee may also dislocate the patella.
  • The injury is typically associated with young adults or adolescents, particularly females, and is most common in sports like basketball, gymnastics and soccer.

  • Expectations of Recovery
  • With proper care, most patients can expect a full recovery from a dislocated patella.
  • After treatment to correct the dislocation, patients may expect the joint to be supported with a brace for 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Depending upon the severity of the damage caused by the dislocated patella, injured ligaments and surrounding structures will likely take a minimum of 6 weeks to completely heal.


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