Patellar Subluxation :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

Patellar Subluxation (“Popping Kneecap”)

What is patellar subluxation?

  • The patella (kneecap) normally sits in a groove at the center of the bottom end of the thigh bone.
  • A patellar subluxation means that the kneecap has briefly slid out of its normal place in that groove.
  • In most cases the kneecap moves towards the outside of the body when it slides out of place.
  • This can be a one-time event, or it can happen multiple times.

What causes patellar subluxation?

  • The most common cause is weakness and/or tightness of certain muscles in the hip and thigh, which can make the knee move differently than it should.
  • A direct blow to the front or side of the knee that pushes the kneecap out of its groove.

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain and swelling  around or underneath the knee cap
  • The knee giving way when walking or running
  • Popping in the front of the knee

What can I do to feel better?

  • Rest from anything that causes pain
  • Ice for 15-20 minutes as often as once per hour can help control pain and swelling
  • Work with an Athletic Trainer or Physical Therapist to strengthen weak muscles and stretch ones that are too tight

When should I see a medical professional?

  • If you’re unable to put weight on the leg
  • Pain and swelling do not improve with rest and ice
  • The knee is popping or giving way
  • If you’re unsure about how severe the condition is

Request an Appointment

Nationwide Children's Hospital
700 Children's Drive Columbus, Ohio 43205 614.722.2000