Meniscus tears: Mechanism of injury and diagnosis

The meniscus is the “c”-shaped shock absorber located between the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone) on either side of each knee. Injuries of the meniscus are very common from squatting or twisting motions. That is one reason these injuries are common in sports, but non-athletes can suffer them as well.

Doctors can examine you to try to determine if you tore a meniscus. Often your description of the injury alone can help. Very localized pain on the medial (inside) or lateral (outside) of your knee after a twisting injury at least raises suspicion of a meniscus tear.

The doctor can perform some physical exam tests as well. He might feel along the joint line trying to find specific areas that hurt. Often the patient will have pain along the inside of the knee toward the back, and the doctor can feel that tenderness. He might bend your knee and twist it to try to recreate the pain. The doctor might also perform x-rays and order an MRI.

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In this video, I discuss the mechanism of injury of a meniscus tear, as well as history, physical exam and use of radiology tests like x-rays and MRIs to make the diagnosis.

Have you suffered a meniscus tear? How did you injure yourself? How did you treat it? I would love to hear your experience below!

Also read:
Meniscus Tears
Meniscus Tears – Recovery

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 Meniscus tears: Mechanism of injury and diagnosis

  1. I found your site to be the best source on the web when it comes to the topic of Meniscus tearing and relating info. The surgery video was far better than YouTube offerings with a better naration and helpful links included as well.
    I have had 1 trim job on each knee thus -far, performed by 2 different sports med surgeons in my area, (south MD).

    The first such surgery was done in 2014 and I was walking comfy in only a day or so.
    The second, (performed by a sports med specialist whom I have had for other surgeries over the years – and know to be very good in his field) actually had 2 tears – but the MRI revealed only 1. Both torn areas were trimmed and I am recovering now, (surgery performed 12/28/16) with obviously a longer recovery this time around. Your video explained the procedure very well and I thank you for the help it provided by demonstrating the tools and process overall.

    It would also help if some form of 3D modeling could be used to show the function of the meniscus during the bending and use of the knee – & perhaps the way arthritis can enter the scenario to degrade the action.

    Lastly – I also have another issue that seems to be omitted or unknown to Sports Med Pros. The inside of my knees (yes both) have pain slightly lower than the meniscus – perhaps what is called “goose foot” bursitis? At least that is the most accurate descrption I was able to find online that sounds like where this pain is coming from. It is a considerable pain that I would have persued to its end – had the meniscus tear not pre-empted the diagnodis process. I have been diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis too – just FYI – but I was wondering if this later bursitis thing is common AND is there a treatment? I am 58 5’9″ tall, and probably very obese now days – but I use to be quite active and nearly “skinny” up until 10 years ago.

    • Yes there is a bursa where you describe, and it can get inflamed – pes anserine bursitis. Cortisone shots into the bursa, NSAIDs and PT can often get rid of that pain. I’m thrilled the site has been helpful for you!

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

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