Patellar Tracking Disorder - Topic Overview
What is patellar tracking disorder?
tracking disorder means that the kneecap (patella) shifts out of place as the
leg bends or straightens. In most cases, the kneecap shifts too far toward the
outside of the leg. In a few people, it shifts toward the
Your knee joint is a complex hinge that joins the two bones of the lower leg with the thighbone.
- The kneecap sits in a groove at the end of the thighbone. It is held in
tendons on the top and bottom and by
ligaments on the sides.
- A layer of
cartilage lines the underside of the kneecap. This helps it glide along the groove in the thighbone.
A problem with any of these parts in or around the knee can lead to patellar tracking disorder.
What causes patellar tracking disorder?
Patellar tracking disorder is usually caused by
several problems combined, such as:
- The way your knee is formed. Things that can lead to a knee problem include having a small or flat kneecap, knock-knees, a very long patellar tendon, or a shallow groove in the end of the thighbone.
- Muscles in the front of your thigh (quadriceps) that are weak or out of balance. Strong quadriceps help hold your kneecap in place. But your kneecap can be pulled off track if the outer quadriceps muscle is stronger or contracts more quickly than the inner muscle.
- Ligaments, tendons, or muscles that are too loose or too
- Damaged cartilage in your kneecap.
You are more likely to have patellar tracking disorder if you have any of the above problems and you are overweight, run, or play sports that require repeated jumping, knee bending, or squatting.
What are the symptoms?
If you have a patellar tracking problem, you may have:
- Pain in the front of the knee, especially when you squat, jump, kneel, or use stairs (most often when going down stairs).
- A feeling of popping, grinding, slipping, or
catching in your kneecap when you bend or straighten your leg.
- A feeling
that your knee is buckling or giving way, as though all of a sudden your knee can't
support your weight.
If your kneecap is completely dislocated, you may have severe pain and swelling. Your knee may look like a bone is out of place. And you may not be able
to bend or straighten the knee. If you have these symptoms, be sure to see your doctor. A dislocated kneecap needs to be put back in place by a doctor right away.
How is patellar tracking disorder diagnosed?
It can be hard to tell the difference between patellar tracking disorder and some other knee problems. To find out what problem you have, your doctor will:
- Ask questions about
your past health, your activities, when the pain started, and whether it was caused by an injury, overuse, or something else.
- Feel, move, and look at your knee as
you sit, stand, and walk.
You may have an X-ray so your doctor can check the position and condition of your knee bones. If more information is needed, you may have