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How Is a Meniscus Tear Different From a Cartilage Tear?

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Updated May 29, 2014

Question: How Is a Meniscus Tear Different From a Cartilage Tear?
There is often confusion about whether or not there is a difference between a meniscus tear and a cartilage tear. Many patients will use these words interchangeably, and many doctors may describe an injury using one of these terms. So what do these words mean, and what is the difference between a meniscus tear and a cartilage tear exactly?
Answer: The knee joint has two types of cartilage inside the joint. One of the types of cartilage is called articular cartilage. The articular cartilage forms the smooth layer of the joint that covers the bone ends. A layer of articular cartilage covers the end of the thigh bone, the top of the shin bone, and the back of the kneecap.

The meniscus is a different type of cartilage that forms a shock-absorber between the bones. The meniscus is not attached to the bone like the articular cartilage, but rather sits between the bone ends to cushion the joint.

Most often, a "tear" refers to an injury to the meniscus cartilage, not the articular cartilage. Therefore, it is a meniscus tear that occurs when someone is referring to a cartilage tear of the knee.

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Orthopedics
  4. Hip & Knee
  5. Knee Conditions
  6. Meniscus (Cartilage) Injury
  7. Difference Between Meniscus Tear and Cartilage Tear

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