Meniscus Tears (Knee Injuries)

  • What are meniscus tears?

    Meniscus tears are one of the most common knee injuries. Athletes and active people  particularly those who participate in contact sports  are at an increased risk of meniscus tears, but anyone can injure a meniscus. 

    The meniscus is the semicircular, wedge-shaped collection of soft cartilage in the knee. The cartilage absorbs the stress on the knee and acts as a cushion between the three bones that meet at the knee  the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone) and patella (knee cap). 

    Meniscus tears usually occur after a sudden forceful twisting of the knee. 

    A unique type of meniscus problem occasionally encountered in children is an abnormally shaped meniscus called a discoid meniscus. The disk shape of these menisci makes them more susceptible to tearing.

  • Signs and symptoms

    Symptoms of a meniscus tear can include:

    • Pain in the knee joint
    • Swelling
    • Limping
    • Occasionally a "catching" sensation toward the side or back of the knee
  • Testing and diagnosis

    If you suspect your child or teen has a meniscus tear, he should be evaluated by an experienced orthopedic physician.

    At The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, meniscus tears are treated by orthopedic and sports medicine physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating bone and muscle injuries in children, teens and young adults.

    Our expert doctors will examine your child, assess his pain, learn about your child's medical history and perform diagnostic imaging — such as X-rays and MRIs — to diagnose the problem. Then, we will work with you and your child to develop an individualized treatment plan.

  • Treatments

    Children have a better blood supply to their meniscus than adults and, in some cases, can heal certain meniscus tears with non-surgical treatments. If the tear is too serious, however, surgery may be recommended. 

    Non-surgical options

    Non-surgical treatment may involve:

    • Immobilization with a brace
    • Activity modification
    • Physical therapy

    Surgical options

    If your child's meniscus tear is not amenable to non-operative treatment, we will recommend surgical arthroscopy to treat the problem.

    During this procedure, a skilled orthopedic surgeon will make small incisions that create minimal trauma to your child's knee. Repairable portions of the meniscus will be fixed with sutures or a material that holds the meniscus together while it is healing. When the meniscus is healed, your child's body will safely absorb this material.