Knee cartilage (meniscal) tears

Background information
There are two cartilages in each knee. They are half-moon shaped pads between the large bones of the upper and lower leg. They absorb shocks and allow smooth functioning of the joint. Normal knee movement involves rotation. Forced rotation together with weight-bearing can lead to cartilage tears of varying severity. The cartilage on the inside of the knee is the most commonly affected.

The symptoms range from minimal aching to a painful, locking knee. There may be clicking and swelling. The knee can also give way in various positions and the range of movement of the joint may be limited.

Full details of how the injury occurred and an examination of the knee are required, sometimes followed by other investigations such as arthroscopy or MRI. Meniscal tears can be difficult to diagnose. They can be combined with ligament injuries.

Arthroscopy is a visual examination inside the knee using a special illuminated instrument and usually provides an accurate diagnosis. This investigation has been partly replaced by a new non-invasive imaging technique called MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), which also often confirms the diagnosis.

Physiotherapy leading to strengthening of quadriceps muscles may eliminate minor symptoms and is recommended before any operative procedures. (see Runners knee in archives)

Fragments of the torn cartilage found during arthroscopy can be removed. This is then followed by further rehabilitation with the emphasis on development of quadriceps muscle strength.

If you experience any significant symptoms suggesting a cartilage problem see a physiotherapist or your doctor.

Further information

This article published on
08 February 2006

Next review date 2/1/2013


Sports injuries
First aid
Sports injuries

Areaof the body

Legs, knees, ankles, feet

Male or female?


  Home | Terms & conditions | Privacy policy | Site map
Owned and Managed by StudentHealth Ltd