Anatomy of the Patella
The patella, or kneecap, is a round structure, or piece of bone, in front of the knee. It slides up and down the patellofemoral groove of the femur bone during bending and stretching movements. The patella connects the quadriceps tendon in front of the femur (thighbone) to the patellar tendon in front of the tibia (shinbone). It has two main functions: it protects the knee and it assists with leg extension.
Causes of Patellar Knee Injuries
Patellar injuries can be caused by a number of factors. Overuse, or sports related activity, can cause stress to the patellar tendon leading to tendon injuries, instability or dislocation. A blow to the knee or fall can also injure the patella resulting in patella fractures and torn ligaments.
Symptoms of Patellar Knee Injuries
Depending on the type of patellar injury, symptoms may include pain, inflammation, a feeling of instability in the knee, locking of the joint or restricted movement of the knee.
Types of Patellar Knee Injuries
- Patellar Tendonitis
- Patella Instability
- Patella Dislocations
- Patella Tendon Rupture
- Patella Fracture
- Kneecap Bursitis
Your doctor will evaluate your condition based on your symptoms and physical examination. X-ray of the knee may be taken to make sure there is no problem involving the bones or bone spurs around the knee. An MRI scan can reveal degenerative changes in the patellar tendon.
Conservative Treatment Options
Treatment options for patellar tendinitis include:
- Rest the injured knee and avoid activities such as running and jumping that worsen the condition
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to provide relief from pain and swelling associated with patellar tendinitis
- Stretching out before exercising is important to prevent recurrence of patellar tendinitis. These exercises can also help strengthen the patellar tendon and nearby muscles such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles
- Application of ice to the affected area helps to control the inflammation and reduce the swelling
- A knee support brace or strap can be worn to relieve patellar injury pain
- Iontophoresis: In this technique, topical corticosteroid medication is applied to the affected area with the help of a small device that uses an electric charge to deliver the medication through your skin
- Corticosteroid injection: With the guidance of an ultrasound, corticosteroid injection may be given directly into the sheath around the affected patellar tendon. This helps to relieve pain and perform strength exercises without any pain
Surgical treatments for patellar knee injuries may be required to fix injured tendons or fractures of the patella. Surgery involves the repair of severely damaged parts of the tendon, tendon reconstruction or repair of fractures or bone fragments. Most of these procedures can be performed arthroscopically.