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Cartilage Tears


Cartilage is a white, gristle-like material covering the ends. Torn cartilage can cause you may long-term issues if not properly treated when the injury occurs. Cartilage can tear in almost any joint of the body. Cartilage tears are the most common cause of leg pain in active people.


A cartilage tear injury is usually followed by stiffness that prevents a joint from completely straightening or bending.

In many cases, you may feel better with rest, but your symptoms return with any new physical activity. You may also feel pain and tenderness in your joint, especially when it bears weight such as a hip-joint. In addition, the joint may lock or give way when carrying weight.

Causes and Risk Factors

Common causes include an accident or athletic injury in younger people. In older people, cartilage tears are most likely the result of a breakdown in the cartilage due to aging, which causes it to become brittle.


In addition to your doctor's examination and manipulation of the joint, X-rays or MRI scans (or both) are used to diagnose cartilage tears and associated ligament tears or fractures.


Cartilage cannot repair or replace itself. Several surgical options are available to repair torn cartilage:

  • Implanting your own healthy cartilage cells into the damaged area (Autologous chondrocyte implantation or ACI)
  • Arthroscopic surgery can be used to remove or repair pieces of torn cartilage.

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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