Knee Fractures

The Knee

The knee is the largest weight-bearing joint in your body. It deals with a great deal of stress and load, which can make it susceptible to damage.


As the name suggests, knee fractures are breaks which happen in one of the bones that makes up the knee joint. Fractures around the knee are serious and can lead to ongoing problems with mobility.  Suspected knee fractures are best assessed by an orthopaedic surgeon and Dr Ward has extensive experience in treating these conditions.

Types of knee fractures

The knee is a complex joint made up of three main bones, each of which can be fractured in different ways. Multiple fractures can occur at the same time.

Patellar fractures

Patellar fractures happen in the kneecap (patella). These are the most common kind of knee fractures and one of the most common knee injuries overall.

Distal femur fractures

Fractures in the bottom part of your thigh bone (distal femur) can also constitute knee joint fractures.  Although it’s the strongest bone in your body, the femur can still break if this area is under enough force.

Tibial plateau fractures

These happen in the flat, upper part of the shin bone (tibia), which connects to your thigh bone and supports a lot of your weight.

Causes of knee fractures

Knee fractures are often caused by a direct blow to the knee. These can result from a number of situations, including:


  • Falls – landing on your knee can cause a blow strong enough to break the bone. This is the most common cause of knee fractures.
  • Sports – many sports can result in falls at odd angles. Fractures caused by this often accompany other sports injuries such as ligament tears.
  • Car accidents – fractures often occur due to impact of the knee with the dashboard.
  • Degenerative conditions – while they don’t cause fractures directly, degenerative conditions like knee arthritis or osteoporosis can weaken the bone and make it more susceptible to damage.


A knee fracture’s most obvious symptom is severe pain. Typically, you won’t be able to take weight on your leg or walk unassisted, and your knee may buckle or give way if you try to do so. Other symptoms include:

  • Swelling and redness
  • Bruising
  • Deformity (especially if the bones are displaced)
  • Weakness
  • Tenderness to touch


Your doctor will ask questions about how the injury happened and how long you’ve been in pain, as well your medical history and any previous joint injuries. A physical examination will also help in the diagnosis of knee fractures.

Your doctor will then request an x-ray to assess the damage. This lets them see if a fracture is present, how severe it is, and if surgery is needed to repair it. You may also need an MRI to check for ligament and tissue damage.

Treating knee fractures

Each knee fracture is assessed individually and a treatment plan is made based on its location and severity. Dr Jason Ward has extensive experience in treating knee fractures and can provide a range of treatments to suit.

Non-surgical treatment

If your knee fracture is minor or not displaced (i.e.: the joint is aligned), surgery may not be needed. Treatment usually involves immobilising your knee in a brace and limiting activity until the fracture heals. This will usually be followed by physiotherapy to restore function and strengthen the muscles around the knee.

A knee fracture is a major injury and your physical abilities may change. A rehabilitation program will help you make lifestyle modifications if needed.

Surgical treatment

Surgery may be needed for major, complicated, displaced or open fractures. The goal of your knee surgery will be to realign the bones so they can heal correctly. It may also involve repairing ligament injuries or clearing the joint of debris (debridement). Dr Ward will discuss all your options and help you prepare for your knee surgery before it takes place.

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