Broken kneecap - aftercare


A broken kneecap occurs when the small round bone (patella) that sits over the front of your knee joint breaks.

Sometimes when a broken kneecap occurs, the patellar or quadriceps tendon can also tear. The patella and quadriceps tendon connects the big muscle in the front of your thigh to your knee joint.

Alternative Names

Patella fracture

What to Expect

If you do not need surgery:

Your health care provider will also treat any skin wounds you may have from your knee injury.

If you have a severe fracture, or if your tendon is torn, you may need surgery to repair or replace your kneecap.

Symptom Relief

Sit with your knee raised at least 4 times a day. This will help reduce swelling and muscle atrophy.

Ice your knee. Make an ice pack by putting ice cubes in a plastic bag and wrapping a cloth around it.

Pain medicines such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, and others), or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn, and others) may help ease pain and swelling.


If you have a removable splint, you will need to wear it at all times, except as instructed by your provider.

After your splint or cast is removed, you will begin:

You may be able to return to work:

Return to sports activities after your provider says it is ok. This most often takes from 2 to 6 months.

Wound Care

If you have a bandage on your knee, keep it clean. Change it if it gets dirty. Use soap and water to keep your wound clean when your provider says you can.

If you have stitches (sutures), they will be removed at around 2 weeks. DO NOT take baths, swim, or soak your knee in any way until your provider says it is ok.

Follow-up Care

You will need to see your provider every 2 to 3 weeks during your recovery. Your provider will check to see how your fracture is healing.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your health care provider if you have:


Paluska SA. Knee braces. In: Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC, eds. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2011:chap 193.

Safran MR, Zachazewski J, Stone DA. Patellar fracture. In: Safran MR, Zachazewski J, Stone DA eds. Instructions for Sports Medicine Patients. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:755-760.

Review Date: 11/27/2016
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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