We frequently encounter athletes with patellar instability, a condition where the patella (kneecap) dislocates or subluxes (partially dislocates) from its normal position. This can result from factors such as muscle imbalances, ligament laxity, or prior dislocations.
Conservative management is often successful in treating patellar instability. Evidence-based treatment approaches including functional loading, which involves gradually increasing weight bearing activities, can help to improve stability and reduce the risk of re-injury.
Building strength in the quadriceps and adductor muscles is most of the focus, as well as addressing any muscle imbalances that may be contributing to patellar instability. Additionally, optimizing cutting and landing mechanics can help reduce the risk of further injury. While this can be more of a longer term process, it can be well worth it if avoiding surgery is the main goal.
In some cases though, surgery may be necessary to address patellar instability, and often involves reconstructing the medial patellofemoral ligament. However, for those who are candidates for conservative management, a gradual and progressive return to sport with the guidance of a trained sports rehab specialist can lead to a successful recovery and a return to pre-injury activities. The importance of proper rehabilitation, including building strength and optimizing movement patterns, cannot be overemphasized.