MPFL: Not a Football League, But a Common, Repairable Knee Injury

A common injury experienced by athletes carries the clinical name “Patellar Dislocation”. This is when you tear a knee ligament (“Medial Patellofemoral Ligament” or “MPFL”) during a knee cap dislocation. Females appear to be more vulnerable to this injury than male athletes.

“The injury usually occurs during a tackle or quick move, when an athlete plants their foot and tries to rotate, putting tension on the thigh bone,” says McLeod Orthopedic Specialist Patrick Denton, MD.  “The tension causes the ligament that stabilizes the knee cap – preventing it from sideways movement — to stretch. Then the knee cap slides out of position and dislocates.”

After the injury, the athlete will experience swelling and pain. Initial treatment includes R-I-C-E (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) with some over-the-counter pain medicine. Conservative treatment is recommended for the first occurrence. In some patients, rehabilitation and therapy rebuild the ligament’s strength.
The ligament often sustains damage or tearing during the dislocation, making the chances of a recurrence as high as 50% of the cases. With repetition of the injury or continued pain, surgical intervention may be recommended or even required.

Reconstructing the ligament with a graft of hamstring tendon can restore the knee’s strength and function.

Following surgery, the patient can anticipate a number of improvements:

  • Significantly reduced pain
  • Renewed knee stability
  • Recovered function
  • Return to previous level of athletics.

“This outpatient procedure allows immediate weight bearing,” says Dr. Denton. “With proper physical therapy, the individual can return to athletics in about 4 months.“

If you experience an injury to the knee, see an orthopedic specialist. The MPFL is one of several problems that cause knee pain. For a variety of reasons, young female athletes may suffer injury to the ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament). Another common knee injury involves tearing of the meniscus “the shock absorber” in the knee.

Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.

Sources include:  McLeod Health, Knee Surgery & Related Research, National Health System (UK), American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons