What is a Torn Meniscus?

What is a Torn Meniscus?

A torn meniscus is a common knee injury that affects one of the two C-shaped pads of cartilage in the knee called menisci. These pieces of cartilage sit between the shinbone and thighbone and act as shock absorbers and stabilizers that protect the bones. A tear in the meniscus can develop due to a sudden, forceful twist of the knee or degenerative changes that happen over time.

Types of Meniscus Tears


There are several types of meniscus tears, each varying in location and severity. Types of meniscal tears include:

  • Radial tear
  • Horizontal tear 
  • Flap tear
  • Bucket handle tear
  • Incomplete or degenerative tear

Torn Meniscus


Signs & Symptoms of Torn Meniscus


A torn meniscus due to an acute twist or turn often presents with a popping sensation and sudden pain. Over time, a patient with a torn meniscus may experience pain, swelling, and difficulty moving, straightening, or bending the leg. A “locking” or “catching sensation” may occur as well. Sometimes, torn meniscus symptoms may take a while to present after an incident. Each patient is different—not everyone will experience all symptoms of a torn meniscus.

What Causes a Torn Meniscus?


A torn meniscus often occurs because of trauma to the knee in the form of a sudden twist or turn. This can happen when a person turns the upper part of their leg while their foot is planted and their knee is bent. Aggressively pivoting or changing direction while running can cause a torn meniscus, as well as landing a jump awkwardly or being pushed or tackled.

Risk Factors

Risk Factors

While a torn meniscus can happen to anyone, some people have a higher risk of sustaining the injury. Those participating in high-impact sports or exercise activities like basketball, track and field events, soccer, football, or hockey are at a high risk of developing a torn meniscus. Those with a history of injury or strain to the meniscus and those with degenerative conditions, such as knee osteoarthritis, are also at an increased risk.

Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Torn Meniscus Care

Our sports medicine and orthopedic experts at NewYork-Presbyterian can ensure that your torn meniscus is diagnosed and treated with compassion and efficiency. We are available to answer any questions about your injury and help guide you through recovery to safely return to the physical activities you love.