Meniscus Tear in Children and Teens (Knee Injuries)

What are meniscus tears?

Meniscus tears usually occur after a sudden forceful twisting of the knee, which causes the meniscus — the semicircular, wedge-shaped collection of soft cartilage in the knee — to stretch and tear. 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 are one of the most common knee injuries in children and teens.

What causes meniscus tears?

Because a meniscus tear is caused by a sudden, forceful twisting of the knee, 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.

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 of meniscus tears in children and teens

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 of a meniscus tear

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

At Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), meniscus tears are treated by orthopaedic 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 for meniscus tears in children and teens

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 for treatment of a meniscus tear

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 orthopaedic 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.

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Your Child's Appointment

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