What are cartilage injuries in children?

Participating in sports activities at an early age can benefit children physically and emotionally. It also encourages a lifelong habit of exercise. In recent years however, doctors have seen an increase in injuries associated with sports-related activity. Cartilage injury in children, youth and teens is becoming more common, and because athletes are still growing, they are at a greater risk for injury than adults. A cartilage injury in child can occur from sports, overuse, injury or trauma. Patients in Vail, Aspen and the surrounding Denver, Colorado communities who are experiencing a cartilage injury or knee pain should be evaluated by Dr. Armando Vidal, pediatric orthopedic sports medicine specialist. Dr. Vidal specializes in children, youth and teen cartilage injuries and can successfully diagnose and treat your child’s knee injury.

Knee Cartilage | Vail CO

What types of cartilage injuries do children have?

Articular cartilage is the slippery white substance covering the ends of the bones. In the knee joint, the articular cartilage helps the bones glide painlessly against each other and acts as a shock absorber. The bone plate supporting the articular cartilage is called “subchondral bone”. If the subchondral bone is defective, the articular cartilage can become damaged. In children, cartilage injuries in the knee are divided into two categories:

  • Pure Cartilage Defect – Only the cartilage layer is affected
  • Osteochondral Defect – Where the cartilage layer and the underlying bone are affected

Articular cartilage has only a few possible diseases. The most common cartilage condition in children and adolescents is osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).

The second most common cartilage injury in children is caused by trauma, such as a hard fall, twisting of the knee during sports, or from a direct impact.

Very rarely, children will develop a cartilage injury known as “wear and tear” cartilage degeneration. This type of cartilage defect typically occurs months or years after an injury or surgery – such as meniscectomy.

What are the symptoms of a cartilage injury in children?

The symptoms of a cartilage injury in children can vary widely depending on the type and severity of the injury. Most cartilage injuries have the following symptoms in common:

  • Pain, swelling, tenderness in the knee
  • Limping or favoring the knee
  • Decreased interest in sports or practice
  • Changes in form or technique
  • Catching or locking of the joint
  • Popping or crunching sound in the joint
  • Pain after activity

What about the growth plate?

Dr. Vidal understands that an important aspect regarding children and successful cartilage treatment as well as healing, is associated with growth. The decision of how to treat the cartilage injury will depend on whether the growth plate, located at the end of long bone in the knee, is open or closed. The grown plates are the origin of bony growth and determine bone length, they are also the source of developing cartilage. Proper treatment for cartilage injuries should only be trusted to an experienced pediatric orthopedic sports medicine specialist like Dr. Armando Vidal.

How are cartilage injuries diagnosed?

Dr. Vidal will obtain a medical history and background, as well as perform a physical examination of the affected joint. Often x-rays and an MRI scan can be used to confirm his diagnosis, as well as help to formulate a treatment plan.

What is the Treatment for Cartilage Injuries in kids?

The good news is kids heal faster than adults because the cells in children are generally much more active than those in adults and can grow faster and divide more readily. Younger cells also have greater plasticity, which means that they can turn into a variety of tissues, including cartilage, much more easily. The cartilage in children also has a better biology and healing capacity, allowing for greater regeneration and new cells are able to move easily, settling within and rebuilding the defective cartilage. This combination of factors allows for and often requires different approaches to the surgical treatment of children, particularly cartilage surgery. The good news is that Dr. Vidal has extensive experience in the successful treatment of cartilage injuries and can help your child return to the sports and activities they love.

How long before my child can play sports again?

It’s difficult to give a timeframe for the return to sport after a cartilage injury. Dr. Vidal will properly evaluate and treat the injury, but the healing time has many different factors and will vary depending on the severity of the injury, treatment solutions and how well the injury responds to treatment. If the injury is minor, recovery can be as quickly as a few weeks. For more severe cartilage injuries, recovery can take several months.

Pediatric Cartilage Specialist

Does your child participate in sports or frequent exercise? If so, your child may be at an increased risk of developing a cartilage injury. Exercise is an extremely healthy activity for children to participate in, however, children are still growing and so are at risk of damaging their cartilage. Pediatric cartilage specialist, Doctor Armando Vidal provides diagnosis as well as treatment for patients in Vail, Aspen, and the surrounding Denver, Colorado communities who have experienced a cartilage injury, while ensuring their growth will not be disturbed. Contact Dr. Vidal’s team today!


The Steadman Clinic – Vail, CO
180 S Frontage Rd W
Vail, CO 81657

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Vail, CO 81657

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