A common knee condition, especially in young athletes, is a patellar (kneecap) dislocation. This occurs when the bones of the knee slip partially or completely out of place.

Dislocations are most commonly caused by trauma to the knee, such as during a car accident, and sports-related trauma, such as a helmet hitting the knee. They often occur when the foot is planted and a rapid change of direction takes place.

If you dislocate your patella, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • The knee buckles and will not support your weight
  • The kneecap slips off to the side
  • The knee feels like it catches when you move it
  • Pain in the front of the knee during activities
  • Pain in the knee when sitting
  • Stiffness and swelling of the knee
  • Creaking or crackling sounds when the knee moves

To determine the cause of your knee pain, one of Lancaster Orthopedic Group’s knee specialists will perform a physical exam, X-rays and an MRI to diagnose the extent of your injuries and to determine if cartilage or bone fragments came loose when the patella was dislocated.

If the patella slipped out of place and has not returned to its normal position, the doctor can push it back into place. This process is called “reduction.” Treatment of the symptoms typically involves immobilizing the knee for a short time until the swelling and discomfort subside.

If the knee cartilage was damaged, it can be repaired with arthroscopic surgery. If the patellar dislocation resulted in a damaged ligament, surgical intervention may be recommended.