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.

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