Meniscus Tears

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Most Aspen area residents are familiar with the possibilities of injury in connection with their favorite winter sports. Meniscus tears, for example, have been known to occur from skiing, snowboarding and hockey. Meniscus tear injuries are often synonymous with some of Aspen’s most beloved winter activities because of the nature of the twisting and flexing motion demanded in these types of sports.

No matter how a meniscal tear manifests, OrthoAspen’s elite-grade Sports Medicine specialists are here to help. In addition to emergency services, we also offer non-operative and surgical treatment options. It’s our goal to find the perfect solution to meet the specific needs of each individual patient. We want you to be back in motion, enjoying your active lifestyle as soon and as safely as possible.

Causes & Symptoms

The meniscus refers to the small, “C-shaped” piece of cartilage in the knee. Each knee consists of two menisci. The medial meniscus is located on the inner aspect of the knee and the lateral meniscus on the outer aspect of the knee. The medial and lateral meniscus act as a cushion between the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia). Essentially, the meniscus acts like a “shock absorber” in the knee joint.

The meniscus has no direct blood supply, and for that reason, when an injury occurs to the meniscus, healing cannot take place.

In addition to winter sports, meniscus tears are a byproduct of other sports too—football, tennis and basketball to name a few. This type of injury often occurs alongside injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Various types of meniscal tears include:

  • Longitudinal
  • Bucket handle
  • Flap
  • Parrot-beak
  • Mixed
  • Complex

The symptoms of meniscal tears include:

  • Knee pain when walking
  • “Popping “or “clicking” at the time of injury
  • Tenderness when pressing on the meniscus
  • Swelling of the knee
  • Limited range of motion of the knee joint
  • Joint locking (if the torn cartilage gets caught between the femur and tibia)

At OrthoAspen, we’re dedicated to finding a treatment solution to allow you to return to your active lifestyle. Prior to discussing treatment options, your OrthoAspen Sports Medicine physician will go over your medical history and perform a physical examination.

The McMurray test is one of the important tests for diagnosing meniscal tears. During this test, your doctor will bend the knee, then straighten and rotate it, in and out. This creates pressure on the torn meniscus. Pain or a click during the test may suggest a meniscal tear. Your doctor may order imaging tests such as a knee joint X-ray and knee MRI to help confirm the diagnosis.


Treatment for meniscus tears depends on the type, size and location of the tear. Your OrthoAspen physician will also take age and activity level into consideration. If the tear is small with damage in only the outer edge of the meniscus, non-surgical treatment may be sufficient.

Non-surgical treatment options include:

  • Rest
    Avoid activities that may cause injury. Crutches may be provided temporarily.
  • Ice
    Application of ice is recommended to reduce swelling.
  • Pain medications
    Prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be administered to help reduce swelling and pain.
  • Physical therapy
    Physical therapy may be recommended for muscle and joint strengthening.

Surgical meniscal tear treatment:

If meniscal tear symptoms persist and conservative treatment doesn’t produce the desired outcome, your OrthoApspen surgeon may suggest knee arthroscopy. Arthroscopy is the most commonly recommended surgical procedure for meniscal tears. The procedure involves a tiny camera which is inserted through a small incision. This enables the surgeon to view inside of your knee on a large screen.

During a meniscectomy, small instruments called shavers or scissors may be used to remove the torn meniscus. In arthroscopic meniscus repair, the torn meniscus will be pinned or sutured depending on the extent of the tear.

Meniscus replacement (or transplantation) involves the replacement of torn cartilage. New cartilage is either obtained from a donor or a cultured patch obtained from a laboratory. Replacement surgery is considered a treatment option to relieve knee pain in patients who have undergone a meniscectomy.

Following surgery, your OrthoAspen surgeon will provide you with a detailed list of instructions to help maximize your healing and recovery.

If you’re concerned that you may have experienced a meniscal tear or would like to set up a consultation with one of our orthopedic specialists, simply click here or call us at 970-544-1289.


Visit OrthoAspen in two convenient locations
Aspen Clinic
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Rd., Suite 2100,

Aspen, CO 81611
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400
Basalt Clinic
Midvalley Medical Center
1450 E. Valley Rd., Suite 201,

Basalt, CO 81621
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400