Health & Body

Ask Deb: "I Dislocated My Kneecap. Why?"

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I dislocated my right kneecap, and it popped right back into place while I was doing a lunge stretch at the barre. When I went down, my right kneecap went out and then somehow ended up back in line. Also, when I turn, sometimes I feel a little weirdness in my knee. Is it possible to just turn out in my knee and not in my hip flexors or turnout muscles? Please help me understand what happened.


Having an experience like that can be scary. You had a wake-up call and need to make a few modifications to how you are working.

First, it is possible to turn out from just the knee down. When you bend the knee, you can rotate the shinbones out, but that puts strain on the inside of the knee. A lunge, as you described, is the perfect place for this to happen. You had your full weight on the front leg and, depending on where you placed the back leg in tendu, you may have already been twisted in the hips and knee.

If you are standing in first position and do a tendu derrière with the left leg, notice if your pelvis rotates slightly to the left at the end of the tendu. For many dancers it does, especially if they are trying to keep the foot going back in a straight line, instead of a slight diagonal.

Then, you go to lunge on the front leg, and as you plié, the hip, knee and foot are no longer in alignment. Voilà! There is a potential for strain or a brief dislocation like what happened to you.

First, see a physical therapist who works with dancers, so she can evaluate the strength and alignment of the muscles around the knee and your overall standing alignment. They will be able to guide you as to what to stretch and strengthen. I don't know if you are hyperextended, knock-kneed or have overly muscular thigh muscles, but each situation would have a different solution. It might even be that you have a kneecap that is shaped a little funny.

After an evaluation, you'll be able to start addressing the imbalances in order to prevent another occurrence. In the meantime, I would decrease your turnout. Never get into first or fifth position through a demi-plié (which twists the knee before you've even begun to move) and work to strengthen your turnout muscles.

To your success,

Deborah Vogel

Director, thebodyseries.com

Got a question for Deb? Email askdeb@dancemedia.com, and she may answer it in an upcoming web exclusive.

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