A patellar fracture affects the kneecap, which can be easily broken, and often occurs from a fall directly onto the knee. They are most common in people 20 to 50 years of age and affect men twice as often as women. One of three bones making up your knee joint, your kneecap serves as a shield for the joint, provides strength to extend – or straighten – the knee joint and connects the muscles in the front of your knee to your lower leg. Fractures of the kneecap are serious and can even require surgery to repair.
Over time, they may cause arthritis of the knee and chronic knee pain. Although some people walk comfortably after a patellar fracture, others can struggle with daily activity. In fact, even those who are walking can have difficulty with other forms of movement. That is because a kneecap fracture can result in problems with knee extension, resulting in a loss of movement. Patellar fractures can range from a single “crack” in the kneecap to numerous breaks. A fracture where the pieces of the patella have not been displaced by the injury may not require surgery. Casts or splints are usually used to keep the knee straight and the ends of the bones in proper position while they heal. For six to eight weeks or longer, you will not be able to put any weight on your leg until the bone is completely healed. Most people use crutches during this period. A knee brace may be recommended. Whether or not you have surgery, rehabilitation plays an important role in getting you back to your daily activities. Keeping your knee immobilized in a cast or splint can result in stiffness. We will work to help you regain strength and movement, allowing you to continuously improve your range of motion. Because immobilization can also weaken the muscles in the front of your thigh, exercises are critical to recovery. Our plan will also include exercises for long-term maintenance of quadriceps strength, as well as hip muscles. By six to 12 weeks, we will organize an activity plan to have you walking better and participating in other forms of exercise. Activities might include pool running and exercises in water. With regular physical therapy, you can reduce pain and continue to stay active after a patellar fracture.