Jock Doc

Basketball player feels sharp pain and pop in knee. Is surgery needed?

Q: Last Saturday, I was playing basketball and felt a sharp pain and a pop in my left knee. Since then, I have needed crutches to get around and I cannot straighten my knee all the way out. I went to urgent care where they took X-rays and I was told nothing was broken or out of place. The doctor said that if I wasn’t better in a few days, I should see an orthopedic surgeon. I am 52 years old, really active and love to play basketball. What is your advice on the best way to get better and back to playing sports?

Selesnick Harlan.JPG
Dr. Harlan Selesnick

A: The two most common non-contact injuries to the knee where the person feels a pop while playing basketball are a meniscal cartilage tear or an ACL tear.

The meniscal cartilage is a C or O shaped shock absorber in the knee between the bone ends. An acute injury may result in a tear of the cartilage where a pop is felt and a torn meniscal piece gets stuck between the bones, thus limiting the range of motion.

The ACL is a ligament important for pivoting and frequently when torn, a pop is felt or heard.

An MRI scan would be helpful in diagnosing these injuries and I think you should see an orthopedic surgeon as quickly as possible. Both types of injuries can usually be successfully treated with a return to sports likely.

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