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Girls Relaxing on Soccer Field

Patella Maltracking
& Subluxation

Patella picture

What is it?

The Patella ( knee cap) sits in a groove at the end of the femur

(thigh bone) called the trochlea groove and moves up and down as you bend and straighten your knee. The patella is supported by muscles and ligaments that help it move smoothly in the groove.  Some individuals have a very shallow groove causing the patella to move more freely and not sit centrally in the groove.


A subluxation is where the patella partially dislocates from its normal position in the groove. The extent of the dislocation determines whether it’s called a patellar subluxation or a dislocation. Patellar dislocations are rare and only account for 3 percent of all knee injuries,


The term Patellar mal-tracking is used to describe the abnormal movement of the patella within the femoral groove when the patella moves during knee flexion and extension. 

These conditions can cause symptoms ranging from dislocation of the kneecap to knee pain. 


It is observed that it is most prominent in young individuals aged 10 to 16 years old and female.

Signs and Symptoms

​There can be a range of symptoms that may indicate patella instability depending on the severity and underlying factors. If there has been no subluxation there may be a range of other symptoms that are ongoing and keep occurring.  Symptoms that can occur with maltracking or subluxation can be :

  • sensation of the patella slipping  to the outside of the knee

  • pain after extended sitting

  • pain at the front of the knee that worsens after activity

  • Instability (giving way) of the knee after jumping/twisting with severe onset of pain

  • The feeling of moving/popping out

  • Immediate swelling after a trauma or give way 

If you do suffer from any of these it is advisable to review with a Physiotherapist, Sports Physician  or Orthopedic consultant


  • first-time patellar subluxation or dislocation.


  • Treatment is nonoperative with bracing for first time dislocation without bony avulsion or presence of articular loose bodies. Operative management is indicated for chronic and recurrent patellar instability.

After a patellar subluxation, you have about a 33 percentTrusted Source chance of a recurrence

Surgical treatment is recommended if there is 

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