Bad Knees? Maybe it’s Your Kneecap

Your Patella, or kneecap as it is commonly called, helps give the knee joint strength and structure. The knee is the largest joint in the body and allows your legs to bend and turn.

Because your knee has many working parts and carries a heavy load, it’s prone to problems. More than 2.5 million sports related knee injuries are seen in emergency rooms annually.

Most diagnosis are of strains and sprains, but sometimes the injury can be due to a problem with the Patella.

If you have any issues with your kneecap, see your doctor so you can figure out the right treatment. Some of them can get better with physical therapy, while others may need surgery.

Common injuries can include the following:


Your kneecap can get knocked out of place, or dislocated, when your leg is planted and you suddenly change direction. It can also happen when something hits your leg and forces it in another direction.


This happens when your kneecap slides a little out of place but doesn’t dislocate entirely.


This is a serious injury where you break your kneecap, usually in a fall or other direct impact.

Patellar Tendon Tear

The patellar tendon starts in your thigh muscles, wraps around your kneecap, and connects to the top of your shinbone.  You can have a partial or total tear.

Patellar Tendinitis

Also called patellar tendinopathy or jumper’s knee, this is an injury to the patellar tendon. It’s common with people who play sports like basketball and volleyball.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

This catch-all term describes pain in the front of the knee and around the kneecap. Sometimes it’s called “runner’s knee” or a “tracking” problem. Typically caused by overuse, patellofemoral pain syndrome can lead to pain, stiffness, or a buckling feeling in the knee and lower thighbone. It’s common in athletes, especially females and young adults.

Patellar Tracking Disorder

Patellofemoral pain syndrome also may come from an alignment problem in how your knee works. When you have misalignment, or a patellar tracking issue, your kneecap can push to one side of the trochlear groove when you bend your knee. That irritates the area, causing pain.

Chondromalacia Patellae

Damage to the cartilage behind the kneecap is called chondromalacia. You may feel a dull pain around or under your kneecap that gets worse when you go down stairs.

Prepatellar Bursitis

With prepatellar bursitis, the bursa in the front of your knee gets irritated and swells with extra fluid. That puts pressure on your knee that leads to pain.

If you are diagnosed with any of these issues, it is important to follow the advice of a medical professional in order to heal properly and avoid reinjury.


While you can’t avoid every possible injury to your kneecap, you can take some simple steps to help keep your knees healthy:

  • Wear the right shoes for your activity.
  • Warm up before you work out.
  • Do exercises to keep your thigh muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings) strong and flexible.
  • Cut back on anything that causes knee pain
  • Stay at a healthy weight to reduce stress on your knees.