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Dislocated Knee Overview

Dislocated knee is an extremely traumatic knee injury, and it is considered to be one of the most serious injuries that can affect this joint. When the knee itself dislocates, that could mean that a lot of soft tissues inside the knee joint get damaged, notably the ACL, the PCL, the meniscus, cartilage, and then more seriously the neurovascular structures.

A dislocated knee is a serious, painful injury that needs immediate medical attention. The long-term consequences are not that dire, but getting through the initial stages is an ordeal for any athlete and those who are nearby when it happens.

The kneecap (patella) sits in a groove at the bottom of the thighbone. It stays in this groove when the knee is bent and acts as a support for the quadriceps muscles that stabilize the leg when it is extended. Any physical activity that involves the lower extremities requires a stable kneecap.

When the kneecap partially moves out of its position, doctors call the condition a subluxation. A partially dislocated kneecap can be the result of a previous dislocation or an inherited tendency for the kneecap to slide to the outside. There could be tenderness under the kneecap and pain when the person twists the knee or climbs stairs. A feeling of the knee's instability is a common complaint. This is because the muscles and ligaments are unable to keep the patella in the femoral groove.

When the kneecap moves all the way out, usually to the outside of the leg, it has been dislocated. The injury can result from a blow to the knee, but it happens more commonly when an athlete performs some kind of twisting motion or change of direction.

Dislocated Kneecap Symptoms

When the kneecap is completely out of the groove:

  • Severe pain, tenderness
  • Immediate swelling
  • The kneecap is visibly displaced, usually to the outside of the knee joint
  • A kneecap that can be moved excessively from side to side (but don't try it)
  • A feeling that your weight cannot be supported
  • Inability to straighten your leg

If you have any questions about a dislocated knee or would like to consult with Dr. Joseph Weinstein and the Comprehensive Orthopedic and Spine Care on your conditions, contact us today to make an appointment!