Prepatellar Bursitis


What is a prepatellar bursitis?

A prepatellar bursitis is an irritation or inflammation of a bursa on top of your kneecap.
A bursa is a sacklike cavity filled with fluid. It is usually found in areas subject to friction, for example in places in which a tendon passes over a bone or a bone glides under the skin.

How can it occur?

A prepatellar bursitis can occur from overuse such as frequent kneeling or a direct trauma to the knee.

What are the typical symptoms of a prepatellar bursitis?

Symptoms include pain and often a tender bulge or soft tissue swelling on top of the kneecap. You may have pain when you flex your knee or jump or even when you walk.

How can a prepatellar bursitis be diagnosed?

Your doctor will examine your knee and review your symptoms as well as your current training activities. He may find a swollen bursa on top of your kneecap. Ultrasound is an easy way to identify a prepatellar bursitis if the situation is uncertain.


This MRI scan of the knee shows a bruised knee. Liquids appear white in this picture. Liquid inside the prepatellar bursa and the joint itself results from a trauma.

What treatment options are there?

If you have severe or constant knee pain from a bursitis, you should take a break from your ballet training. Ignoring the pain can have serious consequences, as the situation will become increasingly complicated the longer you train with pain.
The RICE concept (rest, ice, compression and elevation) is an easy guideline that can be used to initially treat acute as well as overuse injuries. Please read my “First Aid” post to obtain some background information that you will need to adapt this concept successfully and learn about the use of painkillers. An elastic knee brace may help to apply compression to the bursa.
If the bursa is very swollen your doctor may remove fluid from the inside of the bursa with a syringe. He may also inject a corticosteroid. Injections of the bursa are usually not very painful. A local anesthetic can be applied before the injection to make the procedure more comfortable to you.
If the bursitis persists or frequently reoccurs, surgical removement may be necessary. The operation is called a “bursektomie” and will put you off your ballet training for about 6 to 8 weeks.

Next steps

You have noticed a swollen bursa in front of your kneecap and want to have it sorted out? This is the next step:

  • See a doctor

Dancers seek help from various different kinds of therapists, many of whom may employ treatments that are outside of mainstream medicine. Before considering the use of such alternative medicine, you should see a doctor for an evaluation and diagnosis.
Finding a doctor who is familiar with the specific medical issues faced by dancers is often challenging and you may need to see several different specialists in order to get a full picture of your diagnosis. A good place to start is to ask your friends and fellow dancers for the names of their favorite doctors.



Medical Disclaimer