Why does my knee crack and pop?

A large number of people have aches and pains with no specific injury. Some people even have symptoms in their joints that might not hurt. In this Ask Dr. Geier video, I answer the question of a young athlete who has cracking and popping in her knee.

Abigail in Chicago asks:
Hi! I am a junior in high school. I am extremely active and play tennis almost every day. I have been experiencing no pain in my knee. However, my knee cracks almost every time I lean down. Should I be concerned?

Crepitus is the formal term for popping or cracking under the patella (kneecap). It can be very common in adolescents and young adults with no Female tennis playerunderlying structural damage. In this video, I discuss what this popping and cracking could be and when you might see a doctor.

Do you have popping or cracking in your knee? Does it limit your activity? I would love to hear your experience below!

Also read:
Ask Dr. Geier – Should I go to the doctor after a knee injury?
7 signs your knee injury could be serious

Please remember, while I appreciate your questions, I cannot and will not offer specific medical advice by email, online, on my show, or in the comments at the end of these posts. My responses are meant to provide general medical information and education. Please consult your physician or health care provider for your specific medical concerns.

2 Responses to Why does my knee crack and pop?

  1. I had a medial tear straight through my meniscus in November which required surgery. Tons of plica and recovery was more difficult than expected. As an athlete, I felt I could overcome anything but my age shared a different perspective. I continued in my mind that I could overcome and continued to run at level I probably shouldn’t have. I am a sprinter and cardio is what drives me. I wasn’t getting the endorphins I needed and became depressed. I am now back in PT because I noticed a “pop” here and there. We are trying to work through the issue to determine next steps and to build my 20% variance from one knee to the other. My calf also took a toll because I was over-compensating and now they are very different in size. I am in pediatric orthopaedics and should know better than to overdo but I did anyway. Thoughts?

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Whitney! In my experience, recovery from plica surgery can take longer than a surgery to trim out a meniscus tear, so it doesn’t surprise me that doing both could lead to a difficult return to sprinting. I think PT can be a good idea to rebuild strength. Often weakness after the plica surgery can take a while to overcome. And to be fair, there are many athletes – especially runners – who push really hard to return quickly!

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david-headshot I am an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina.

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