What To Do When You Fall And Break A Kneecap  

Breaking your kneecap involves a fracture to the patella, which is the small bone protecting the knee itself. If the patella should become fractured, the knee becomes far more vulnerable and can itself become fractured or broken if you should fall on it, or if you hit your knee against any hard object capable of doing damage.

In some cases, kneecap breaks can be treated with a splint while the bone undergoes the healing process. Usually though, patellar fractures tend to be a little more complicated, and they can be even more complicated if the patella should become displaced. In that case, it may be necessary to perform a surgical procedure so as to stabilize the kneecap and allow proper healing.

If you suspect that you have broken or fractured your kneecap, it will be necessary to have a knee MRI performed by a specialist to make a definite determination, and some program of treatment can be implemented.

Symptoms of a kneecap fracture

It will definitely be noticeable when you have broken or fractured your kneecap, since you’ll immediately notice considerable pain and swelling directly in front of your knee joint. You might also experience some obvious bruising, and most likely, some discoloration of the skin in that area. It may also become difficult or impossible to fully extend your knee joint and to straighten out your leg.

You’ll also notice some obvious discomfort when you attempt to walk, or you may be completely unable to walk at all. Even putting weight on the damaged knee can cause pain and discomfort, and collectively all these symptoms will make it very obvious that some kind of medical procedure will be necessary in order to rehabilitate the kneecap. This is something that should be addressed immediately, before any further damage can be done to the kneecap or the knee.

Recovering from a kneecap fracture

Generally speaking, a fracture of your kneecap will cause considerable pain for anywhere between a few days and a few weeks. You can mitigate the discomfort involved by elevating the affected leg and applying ice packs as often as possible. There are also a number of over-the-counter pain medications which can be purchased to reduce the discomfort associated with the fracture.

It might even be necessary to take stronger medication such as an opioid for a brief period of time, until you can get past the worst of the pain. However, it’s very important to follow your doctor’s recommendations precisely if opioids are involved in your recovery, because becoming dependent on them is a definite possibility if you continue opioid usage beyond the recovery time frame.

Some cases of kneecap fracture involve surgery while others do not, but in all cases, it will be necessary to rehabilitate your kneecap in order to return to your normal daily activities. It’s usually necessary to keep the affected leg immobilized for some period of time when you’ve fractured your patella, and this can cause the muscles in the area to atrophy and go stiff.

This being the case, your therapist or your doctor is likely to recommend that you do some exercises that will improve your knee’s range of motion. Some other exercises will serve to strengthen your leg muscles and overcome the stiffness and atrophy that may set in to the muscles around the knee area.

The bottom line

There are a number of factors which can impact your recovery from a broken kneecap. Some of these factors include the following:

  • Whether or not surgery was necessary for your recovery, because surgery always adds more time to the recovery process
  • The severity of the fracture itself, since worst-case fractures will take longer to heal than relatively minor breaks
  • The total rehabilitation time required, which will be impacted by the first two items above.

In general, people who have fractured a kneecap will be able to resume normal activities within three to six months, although if the fracture was more severe, it may take a longer time for healing. During that recovery time, it’s likely that your doctor will recommend some changes in your normal routine so that you don’t reinjure the kneecap or your leg. Some of these changes might include climbing stairs, doing some squatting exercises, and regularly doing some deep knee-bends, so that you can avoid any potential issues in the future.

With a little care and close adherence to your doctor’s recommendations during recovery, you should be back to your old self again after several months. Whatever it was that caused your kneecap to become fractured in the first place will then be something you make special note of, so that you can avoid repeating the process in the future.

Anyone who has undergone a fractured kneecap one time will certainly not want to go through it again, nor will they want to go through the recovery period, which can last for several months. All this will make a lasting impression on you, and you certainly will not want to ever experience it again.