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  • Writer's pictureEdmond Ma

What To Do After Dislocating Your Patella

Dislocating or subluxing your kneecap can be a scary thing. The next question usually is what should I do? Do I need surgery? Usually a visit to a physiotherapist can help you answer these questions.

Acute treatment for a patella dislocation usually involves immobilizing the knee in a Zimmer Splint or a hinge brace locked into full extension. Depending on the severity of the injury immobilization can last from 0-6 weeks.


Deciding between conservative treatment and surgery for a patella dislocation depends on various factors. How many times has this happened? More often than not, if it is your first time dislocating your knee cap, conservative treatment should be prioritized and at least tried. For the right candidate and appropriate guidance and rehabilitation, this can often be successful. Another factor is the extent of the injury. Usually with a dislocation of the patella, the primary stabilizer of the knee cap the Medial Patellofemoral Ligament (MFPL) is compromised.


There may also be other concomitant injuries such as involvement to the meniscus or even bone which would all be picked up with a MRI. Fractures can often be the determinant between surgery and conservative treatment, dependent on the size and whether it is displaced. This can usually be picked up by X-rays. If there has been more than one dislocation, surgery is then more heavily considered.


The recovery for conservative treatment of patella dislocation is around 14-16 weeks and slightly longer for those who’ve had surgery. Physiotherapy should include a progressive strength program and extensive running rehab. Sports specific rehab and exercises should also be included to safely return you to your preferred sport.


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