What to Do When an Acute Patellar Injury Is Suspected

In the event that an acute patellar injury is suspected, it will be necessary to immediately remove the affected individual from athletic competition. Further treatment will vary depending on the specific injury sustained (e.g. fracture, dislocation, etc.). Initial treatment will likely include:

  • Non-steroidal anti inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be given to address the knee pain or initial swelling.
  • The R.I.C.E. method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) may be used to reduce the swelling surrounding the injured area.

    See The P.R.I.C.E. Protocol Principles

  • If fracture is suspected, use crutches or do not bear weight until evaluated by a provider experienced in knee trauma.

Further impact or exertion of the knee joint may worsen the injury, so any athlete with a suspected acute patellar injury should be transported carefully to a medical professional for further evaluation.

Treatment for an Acute Patellar Injury

Following a consultation with a doctor, an athlete may require treatment ranging from light painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication in minor cases to surgery for more severe injuries. Notably, the method of treatment of the prior injury may influence on the likelihood of recurrence. For example, it has been shown that individuals who suffer knee dislocations and are treated surgically the first time have a lower likelihood of recurrence.1

See Treatment of Dislocated Kneecaps

Following treatment, physical therapy may be recommended to strengthen the knee joint before resuming competition.


  • 1.Erickson, BJ e. Does Operative Treatment of First-Time Patellar Dislocations Lead to Increased Patellofemoral Stability? A Systematic Review of Overlapping Meta-analyses - PubMed - NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2015. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25636989. Accessed August 3, 2015.