Injuries and rehab in sports: Kneecap dislocation

A kneecap (patella) dislocation injury can take you out of your game for awhile. You need to be really careful not to get this type of knee injury. It can do some real damage to your knee. Many times surgery and rehab may even be required. There are many things to know about kneecap dislocation.


When you have kneecap injuries you know right away that something is terribly wrong. That is especially true for when you have a kneecap dislocation. It may feel really painful. You should see your doctor right away for proper medical diagnosis and dislocated kneecap treatment. You will probably have a MRI or an x-ray to see if you have kneecap dislocation.

A kneecap dislocation is when your kneecap (patella) moves out of its normal position. It usually moves into a sideways position instead. This causes kneecap pain. It also may cause haemarthrosis. Haemarthrosis is intra-articular bleeding.

Common Causes

There are certain sports that carry a higher risk for having a kneecap dislocation. Contact sports can be an issue for getting a kneecap injury. For example, playing football might lead you to getting this type of knee injury. If you get tackled your knee could become dislocated. Another example is playing hockey. Imagine another player taking a hockey stick to your knee while playing. Your knee can easily become dislocated.

You do not always need a high contact sport though to get a kneecap injury. Lots of times it is a non-contact injury that causes knee dislocation. People can just lose their balance and have their knee twist out on them. Your patella can dislocate from trauma or hyper-extension. Either way you will not be playing sports until your kneecap is better again.


Kneecap pain will probably be the first symptom of kneecap dislocation that you will notice right away. The smartest move you can make is to get off your feet right away. Your pain will not go away, but it will be lessened. If you feel any sort of kneecap pain, you should see your doctor. Kneecap dislocation should be diagnosed right away.

Another symptom that you may feel when you have kneecap dislocation is that your kneecap will feel like it is locked. You may hear a popping sound when you first get injured. This sound can be really loud. You may also notice bruising around your kneecap. It might also be tender to your touch.


There a couple treatments for people with kneecap injuries. No matter what type of knee injury you have it always smart to do the R.I.C.E treatment. This means rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If you cannot be seen right away by your doctor, this is what you should be doing at home. Keep off your feet as much as possible.

The ideal situation is that you are seen by a medical professional as soon as possible. Knee injuries are nothing to mess with. After you have been examined you will know if you have knee dislocation or not. If you do you could have a non-operative treatment or surgery. Rehab might be included in your treatment plan.

Rehab Times

You are not going back to playing sports right away if you need to have rehabilitation. It takes at least six months to get back to playing sports again if you have had surgery to correct your knee dislocation. This happens when an athlete has haemarthrosis with patella dislocation. Seeing a knee specialist will tell you if you need surgery and rehab or not.

Usually a dislocated kneecap treatment can be done by sliding the knee back into position. However, when this cannot be done that is when surgery comes into play. You will probably be given crutches. Then you will have to do rehab exercises. Rehab will help you to strengthen your knee, surrounding muscles, and help you to improve your balance.


If you follow proper treatment for your kneecap dislocation, then you can be back on your feet in a usually reasonable time period. Make sure you follow your doctor's recommendations, and you should be fine. It is easy to dislocate your knee again though. Many people have knee dislocations again. The cartilage on the kneecap could have been damaged.

Avoid situations where you put extra stress on your knee. Your knee may not be as strong as it used to be. So think about that before you play sports again. You might want to do sports that are good for your knee. For example, going swimming or cycling can help strengthen your knee. I used to work in the nursing field at a rehab hospital, and I saw these type of knee injuries all of the time. It is important to be patient with yourself and your recovery time when you have a knee dislocation.


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Updated Friday, Mar 4, 2011