Jock Doc

Clicking in knee could mean meniscal tear

Q. I was playing basketball last week and while cutting to the basket felt a click in my left knee. I never felt a similar sensation before. It hurt a little bit but I was able to keep playing and finished the game. It was sore and stiff that night but did not swell a lot.

I have been able to play and still work out but occasionally I feel the same click particularly if I squat or kneel down. Is this something I have to worry about and how quickly will the clicking go away?

The clicking or catching sensation in the knee most likely is related to a meniscal cartilage tear.

The meniscal cartilage is a C or O-shaped shock absorber that sits between the two bones of the knee, the tibia and femur. In the younger athlete, meniscal cartilage may tear by a sudden twisting or pivoting move or squatting particularly with heavy weights. If the meniscus is torn, the athlete may feel a catching, clicking, or locking sensation that is uncomfortable. Generally, the meniscal cartilage does not have an adequate blood supply for it to heal on its own.

Other possible causes of clicking in the knee may be a thickened lining that catches “plica” rubbing of the iliotibial band which is a muscle that rubs on the outside part of the knee, or a roughness beneath the kneecap “chondromalacia.”

I recommend you see an orthopedic surgeon who will examine your knee and may order an MRI scan, which is the most accurate test for diagnosing an injury to the meniscus. If a significant meniscal cartilage tear is seen particularly in the younger athletic individual, this usually requires arthroscopic surgery to repair.

Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send your questions to

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