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Wrestling with Kneecap (prepatellar) Bursitis
Anthony Cappellino, M.D.


Wrestlers spend a great portion of a match on their knees. Constant pressure, friction and impact can often cause them to experience swelling in the front of the knee. The constant friction irritates a small lubricating sac (bursa) located just in front of the kneecap (patella). The bursa enables the kneecap to move smoothly under the skin. If the bursa becomes inflamed, it fills with fluid and causes swelling at the top of the knee. This condition is called prepatellar bursitis. 


  • Pain with wrestling, but not usually at night.
  • Rapid localized swelling on the front of kneecap ( usually soft and easily compressed )
  • Anterior knee tenderness, warm to the touch.


Sometimes, it is advisable to recommend an X-ray to rule out the possibility of a fracture. However, I find conservative treatment is usually quite effective, as long as the bursa is simply inflamed and not infected ( a consequence of untreated bursitis that is re-aggravated  with continued wrestling  without treatment).

  • Rest. Discontinue wrestling or substitute other exercises ( for weight management and maintenance of physical conditioning ) until the bursitis clears up.
  • Apply ice at regular intervals three or four times a day for 20 minutes at a time. Each session should reduce swelling considerably if the knee is also being rested.
  • Elevate the affected leg except when necessary to walk.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Physical Therapy treatment incorporating these treatments and others is the fastest way to resolve the bursitis and return to wrestling

If the swelling is significant, your physician may decide to drain (aspirate) the bursa with a needle. Chronic swelling that causes disability may also be treated by draining the bursa, but if the swelling continues, your orthopaedic surgeon may recommend surgical removal of the bursa. The operation is an outpatient procedure. It takes a few days for the knee to regain its flexibility and some weeks before normal activities can be resumed.

Preventing knee bursitis:

A You can help prevent bursitis by following these simple recommendations:


1. Wear kneepads when wrestling. Wearing knee sleeves that help reduce the friction developed with knee to mat surface contact.

2. Apply ice and elevate your knees after a workout.

3. Have swelling or pain on the front of your knee evaluated by your team athletic trainer, or by a physician when it first starts. Donít wait for it to become chronic. Early treatment is the best way to prevent lost wrestling time.

Dr. Anthony Cappellino is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and  Sports Medicine specialist. His office is located in West Islip. Dr. Cappellino can be reached at 631-376-0791

The above material is intended for general information purposes only
and is not designed to replace a diagnoses by your physician.

American Orthopedic Association

01.2004  Anthony Cappellino, M.D.