Knee > Fractured Kneecap > Treatments

    Restrict Activities, Brace

Home Recovery

If your fractured kneecap does not require surgery, your physician will likely immobilize your leg in a cylindrical long leg cast or, in rare cases, a knee immobilizer for four to six weeks. This will allow your fractured kneecap to heal. You may want to follow the routine known as R.I.C.E., which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation:

   Rest - your doctor will likely suggest that you take it easy for several days, so it may be wise to clear your schedule of strenuous, unnecessary activities.

   Ice - initially, your doctor may recommend applying ice packs to the knee for about 20 minutes every three or four hours. You will probably need to do this for up to two or three weeks to help decrease pain and swelling.

   Compression - your cast or a compressive dressing will help to compress the knee and decrease swelling.

   Elevation - elevating your knee will also help reduce swelling by dispersing excess fluid away from the injured area.


Braces are almost never used for the acute management of kneecap (patella) fractures that can be treated non-operatively. Most orthopedists will place their patients in a cylindrical long leg extension cast or, if skin checks are necessary and the patient is compliant, a knee immobilizer. After a four to six week period, the patient may be placed in a hinged brace to allow some restricted knee flexion and extension.


Once the pain and swelling associated with a fractured kneecap have subsided, your physician may recommend physical therapy to help you move about with the aid of crutches, a walker, or other assistive device to maintain and improve your overall conditioning. Though everyone's rehabilitation program is slightly different, rehabilitation for a fractured kneecap after cast removal or discontinuance of a knee immobilizer follows a general pattern. The rehabilitation focuses on strengthening the muscles around your knee and increasing the range of motion of the knee. Rehabilitation can begin about four to six weeks after the injury was treated. Range of motion is extremely important. Movement may be painful at first, but it is important to not allow the knee to stiffen. Rehab then progresses to resistive exercises - those involving weights - to keep the muscles around your knee strong. You should eventually be able to resume functional activities like stair climbing, single leg support, swimming, and driving. You will be able to begin more vigorous activities as your kneecap heals and your leg gets stronger.


   Knee strengthening exercises: Kneecap (patella) injuries

Prevention [top]

Once your fractured kneecap has healed, building muscle strength around your knee can help you avoid further injury. Contact sports and activities increase your chances of re-injuring your kneecap. A kneepad can cushion the blow when playing contact sports. Another way to help prevent further knee injuries is to learn knee-sparing exercise techniques.

   Daily Living - the average person takes between 12,000 and 15,000 steps a day. Each step exerts a force between two and five times your body weight on your knees. After a knee injury, take it easy on your knees during the day whenever possible to save them for activities and exercise. Avoid stairs when there is an elevator, take the shortest path when walking, and consider wearing athletic shoes designed to absorb shock.

   Muscle Strengthening/Conditioning - activities themselves are not a substitute for conditioning. It is essential to adhere to the muscle strengthening program you learned in rehab throughout the remainder of your life. The best strengthening programs are low-impact and non-weight-bearing, like stationary bikes and certain weightlifting programs, so that the knees do not have to absorb shock.

   Recreation - your sport or activity of choice helps maintain mental and physical well-being, but it is not a conditioning program. Sports that require twisting and quick direction changes put great strain on your knee.

Restrict Activities, Brace
   Home Recovery
Open Reduction and Internal Fixation
Patellectomy and Partial Patellectomy

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