Knee Dislocation: Types, Causes, Symptoms and First Aid Treatment

A knee dislocation refers to an injury that occurs when one of the bones forming the knee or the actual kneecap (patella) becomes displaced from its original position. The three bones forming the knee joint are the (1) femur found in the thigh, (2) tibia, the anterior, larger bone in the lower leg and (3) fibula, the posterior, smaller bone in the lower leg.The most common causes of a knee dislocation are direct blows to the knees or accidental falls.Kneecap dislocation is also called kneecap dislocation or patellar dislocation.

Usually, the ligaments surrounding the knee joint tear causing an abnormal alignment when the femur is moved in relation to the tibia and fibula, and eventually, knee dislocation. Because ligaments are highly strong bands connecting bones to other bones, a knee dislocation is an unusual injury, although, it is extremely serious. In most cases, knee dislocation is accompanied by knee fracture. A knee dislocation will require appropriate and immediate medical treatment to avoid complications such as, loss of leg.

Types of Knee Dislocation

A knee dislocation could be either of two types, depending whether it involves the kneecap (patella) or the bones forming the knee joint.

  • Dislocated kneecap
    • Patellar dislocation – affected kneecap will slide to the knee’s side
  • Dislocated knee joint
    • Anterior knee joint dislocation – tibia and fibula are moved toward the front of the femur
    • Posterior knee joint dislocation – tibia and fibula are moved toward the back of the femur

Causes of Knee Dislocation

Knee dislocations are infrequent injuries because they need an unusually large amount direct force or major trauma to occur. The common causes of knee dislocation include:

  • Car crashes and other high-speed injuries
  • Accidental falls
  • Sports injuries
  • Jumping and landing in an awkward position

Symptoms of Knee Dislocation

Knee dislocations may be easily diagnosed due to its appearance. The following are the common signs and symptoms associated with knee dislocations.

  • Knee deformity – crooked or angulated
  • Severe pain and swelling
  • Difficulty walking and knee stiffness
  • In serious cases, numbness below the knee or pulseless below the knee
  • If knee relocates on its own, very swollen knee and pain upon movement

First Aid Treatment and Management for Knee Dislocation

Knee Dislocation

Knee Dislocation

In some cases, knee dislocations can go back into their original location on their own. However, this does not mean that medical care should not be sought or first aid should not be applied. In all cases of knee dislocations, call for emergency medical services immediately. However, while waiting for help, apply first aid to reduce symptoms and discomfort. The following tips can be followed:

  • To help decrease pain and swelling, ice the injured knee. Do not place ice directly onto the skin. Wrap in towel or washcloth.
  • Immobilize the dislocation above and below the injured knee. Magazines, rolled newspapers and cardboard may be used as splint.
  • Do not attempt to move the dislocated bone. Allow the doctor to correct it to avoid exacerbation of knee dislocation.

Disclaimer: The information given should not be used as replacement for First Aid Training. To learn more about knee injuries, such as knee dislocation, enroll in First Aid Courses.


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