Dislocation Of The Patella: Causes And Symptoms

Dislocation of the patella is often the result of a sudden change in the direction of the leg during the stance phase. Find out everything you need to know in this article.
Patella luxation: causes and symptoms

With the term patella luxation, or patellar dislocation, we mean the exit of the patella from its seat. The causes can be a fall, a blow to the knee or a twist of the same.

Displacement occurs frequently towards the outside of the leg and is a typical sports trauma. The patella is a small bone covered with cartilage and triangular in shape. It is located in the front of the knee and the quadriceps tendon and the patellar tendon are inserted on it.

Dislocation of the patella: causes

Sportsman with knee pain

Patella luxation is often the result of a sudden change in the direction of the leg during the stance phase. However, it can also occur following a direct impact or trauma to the knee.

In addition, more often than not, there is an anomaly or a biomechanical characteristic that predisposes us to this type of event.

With a patellar dislocation, the joint loses stability and increases the risk of falling. It manifests itself in very intense pain that makes it impossible to bend the knee. It is appreciable at the simple sight as the knee appears deformed.

If the dislocation occurs due to direct trauma, however, the rupture of all the elements responsible for the connection, including the joint capsule, can also occur.

Risk factors

Some conditions increase the risk of having a patella dislocation. These include being tall, being overweight or having already suffered from dislocation or knee injuries. Other anatomical factors linked to this risk are:

  • High kneecap. A very high insertion of the patellar tendon into the tibia can cause the quadriceps to dislocate the patella.
  • Knee valgus. The X-shape of the legs increases the angle formed by the quadriceps and the patellar tendon, favoring the displacement of the patella.
  • Lateral insertion of the patellar tendon.
  • Rupture of the patello-femoral-medial ligament. It is the structure that connects the inside of the patella to the femur. It prevents the patella from sliding from its seat when the knee is extended, that is, when dislocation usually occurs.

Patella luxation: diagnosis and symptoms

To make the diagnosis, the doctor first of all proceeds to a physical examination, palpating and moving the patella in several directions.

Images of the dislocation or other knee injuries can be obtained through radiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT). The symptoms of a patella dislocation are the following.

  • Swelling and deformation of the knee.
  • Inability to bend the knee or bear weight on the leg.
  • Displacement of the patella towards the outside of the knee.
  • Pain and sensitivity.
  • Hypermobility of the patella.
  • Cartilage injury with increased risk of developing osteoarthritis.

How to relieve symptoms

Ice bag on the knee

To relieve symptoms, you can use:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories : they are useful for calming inflammation and pain. They should always be taken on the advice of a doctor.
  • Ice Pack : Cold helps treat swelling and pain, as well as prevent tissue damage. Apply it on the knee following the doctor’s advice.
  • Raise your legs: try to bring your knee to heart level as much as possible. In fact, this position helps to calm pain and swelling.
  • Physiotherapy : Some exercises help improve knee movement, strengthen them, increase stability and reduce pain.


Patella luxation is a difficult event to prevent, especially in the presence of physical risk factors. The best way to avoid this trauma, therefore, is to perform adequate exercises and try to keep the knees strong and flexible in general.

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