Meniscal Tear Types

By Justin Delicato, PTA

The quick answer, the meniscus is cartilage in the knee that cushions the knee joint and stabilizes the joint. The meniscus cartilage forms a barrier between the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone). The cartilage protects these two bones from rubbing against one another.

Diagram of the different types of tears that can occur to the Menisci. JOI Rehab

Types of meniscus tears


How does a Meniscal Tear Happen?

One of the major reasons menisci tears occur is from sporting activities. Activities that involve forcefully twisting or rotating from the knee, such as playing football can cause meniscal tears. Performing a pivoting or juking movement can cause a possible tear. Common activities we perform daily, such as deep squatting or lifting a heavy object, can also contribute to a menisci tear. Degenerative changes, wear, and tear in older adults are also common factors of developing tears.

What are the Types of Meniscus Tears?

Meniscal Tear Types. There are four types of meniscal tears.

The ligaments of the knee

  1. Longitudinal Tear- is also known as a vertical tear and is seen extending in a vertical orientation parallel to the meniscus.
  2. Bucket Handle Tear- One of the most serious types of tears,  this occurs on the outer portion of the meniscus in which the torn portion of the meniscus pulls into the center of the knee joint, causing locking of the knee
  3. Transverse Tear- Known as a radial tear as well, is the exact opposite of a longitudinal tear in which this type of tear cuts across the meniscus.
  4. Anterior/Posterior Horn Tear- Anterior tears are the least common type of tear. They occur along the meniscus’s front aspect, whereas the posterior horn tear is more common and is located in the back of the meniscus.

What are Meniscal Tear Symptoms?

Meniscal tears often do not cause symptoms or problems. However, if you do have a torn meniscus, you might experience the following symptoms.

  • Pain with running, walking or standing for long durations.
  • Typically, the knee joint’s intermittent swelling will complain of “tightness” in the knee joint.
  • Popping can occur with ascending and descending stairs or squatting.
  • The sensation of the knee locking (difficulty fully straightening or extending the knee). This symptom is contributed to a piece of torn meniscus folding on itself. This causes the blocking of the knee joint from obtaining full motion.
  • Buckling or feeling of your knee is giving way or unable to support you.


JOI Physical therapy can help you recover. Meniscal Tear Types

JOI Physical Therapy can help with recovery

If you do have a meniscus tear, the recovery can vary depending on the type of tear and whether the tear requires surgery. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, you should follow up with an orthopedic knee specialist for an assessment.

What JOI has to offer?

JOI has a dedicated team of physicians that are dedicated to your orthopedic treatment. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above and would like to see a physician regarding this, JOI offers six different MD locations, and they are located throughout the northeast Florida area.

Written By : Justin Delicato, PTA

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