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Meniscus Root Tear Repair

What is the difference between a meniscus root tear and a standard meniscus tear?

The difference in root tears versus standard meniscus tears pertains to the anatomic location of the tear.  The meniscus root is where the meniscus attaches to the bone of the tibia in the back of the knee, like the root of a tree.  In the tree analogy, if one were to uproot a tree, the health of the tree itself suffers, in the same way that when a meniscus root tears, the health of the knee can suffer.  When the meniscus root tears, the meniscus can extrude or push out of the joint and the bones no longer enjoy the balanced cushion of the meniscus.  In fact, when a meniscus root tears, the loading force through the knee is similar to not having a meniscus at all.  This can lead to ongoing pain from the tear, to extrusion of the meniscus, and to more rapid development of osteoarthritis of the knee.

In contrast, more common meniscus tears that are either from a trauma or a result of wear and tear (“degenerative”), occur at the body of the meniscus and are not as commonly associated with such a degree of risk of arthritis development when they occur.  These tears can commonly be sewn together or trimmed without as large of a risk of accelerated arthritis development.

The symptoms of a meniscus root tear include sudden intense pain, usually deep or at the inner section of the knee.  Sometimes a “pop” is heard or felt, and the knee hurts with walking and activity.  Often a limp is experienced.

As noted, when the root tears, there is typically a sudden deterioration in the function and immediate pain.  These symptoms prompt an MRI in most cases, where the tear can be readily observed.  Your physical examination will also serve as a confirmatory test as to the presence of a meniscus root tear.

Meniscus root repair is a specialized procedure that can be technically demanding due to the deep, almost hidden location of the tear in the back of the knee.  Knee surgeon Dr. Obermeyer performs these repairs regularly using sophisticated technology where the tissue is “tacked” to the anatomic position through a tiny bone socket and suture tunnel.  During the completion of the repair, the scope is used to ensure the meniscus root is repositioned exactly where it belongs.

Meniscus root repair involves a period of protection of weightbearing through the knee for a period of one month.  During that time, motion and strengthening exercises are initiated with a physical therapist.  By the time weightbearing begins, all independent daily activities are resumed until full function is regained around 6 to 10 weeks.  Full recovery is approximately 4 to 6 months when the tissue is fully healed and all strength and function is regained, depending on the athletic demands of the patient.

Even if there was a traumatic event that caused a meniscus root tear, there typically is an element of degeneration in the meniscus that predisposed to the tear.  Like any degenerative process, it can worsen, and sometimes it is advantageous to repair the meniscus before substantial arthritis changes settle in the knee. The meniscus cannot heal on its own.

Schedule an orthopedic appointment

If you have suffered a meniscus tear schedule a consultation with knee surgeon Dr. Thomas Obermeyer. Dr. Obermeyer specializes in meniscus injuries and meniscus surgery. Dr. Obermeyer has orthopedic offices in Schaumburg, Bartlett, and Elk Grove Village, Illinois. Dr. Obermeyer regularly sees patients from throughout Illinois including Hoffman Estates, Palatine, Elgin, Streamwood, Arlington Heights, and Roselle communities.


  1. Doherty DB, Lowe WR. Meniscal Root Tears: Identification and Repair. Am J Orthop (Belle Mead NJ). 2016 Mar-Apr;45(3):183-7. PMID: 27004274.
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Dr. Thomas Obermeyer

  • 15+ years of training and experience treating complex shoulder and sports medicine conditions
  • Expert subspecialized and board-certified orthopedic care
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