Where is the lateral meniscus?

The lateral meniscus is one of the most critical structures in the knee – arguably more critical than its medial counterpart!

The lateral meniscus is the meniscus located on the outside of the knee joint. It is so critical because it occupies 70% of the surface of the tibial plateau (versus 50% on the medial side) and because it is so important in joint loading on the lateral side.  The lateral compartment of the knee lacks the conformity of the medial side of the knee and therefore, the lateral meniscus is critical to distribute load.  Lateral meniscal deficiency can elevate peak loads in the lateral compartment to 3-4 times normal!!  Unfortunately, for some patients this can mean early cartilage damage and arthritis if the lateral meniscus is trimmed out. Dr. Armando Vidal, orthopedic knee specialist serving patients in Vail, Aspen and the surrounding Denver, Colorado communities has extensive experience treating patients with lateral meniscus tears and injuries.  His philosophy is always to preserve the lateral meniscus if at all possible to avoid the consequences that can result from lateral meniscal deficiency.

Lateral & Medial Meniscus | Vail CO

How does the lateral meniscus become injured?

A lateral meniscus tear is usually caused by activity. In younger people, a sudden twist or turn when the foot is planted, as in football, rugby or tennis; can cause a tear. Athletes are not the only individuals at risk for a tear, however. Older individuals can tear their lateral meniscus by twisting quickly or squatting down to reach something. Tears of these nature often occur because the meniscus is worn down and fragile, making it easy to injure.  These can also occur in the setting of an ACL injury.

Are you more likely to tear your lateral or medial meniscus?

The medial meniscus is 3 times more vulnerable to injury to due to the way it is attached to the capsule. It is much less mobile than the lateral meniscus.  The moveable lateral meniscus is less prone to tear, except when the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is injured.

What are the symptoms of a lateral meniscus tear?

  • Pain, especially on the outside of the knee
  • Swelling, stiffness in the knee that increases after the injury
  • Catching sensation or the knee locking
  • Instability of the joint, the feeling of it “giving away”
  • Inability to straighten the knee all the way

Can a lateral meniscus tear heal without surgery?

Not all lateral meniscus tears are alike, and it depends on where and how severe the tear is. With small, incomplete tears, Dr. Vidal likes to take a conservative approach with watchful waiting. If the lateral meniscus tear is in an area without blood flow, it cannot repair itself. If repair is needed, it is essential to attempt to repair meniscus tears whenever possible. This is vital to maintain the added shock absorbing capacity of the lateral meniscus.

Dr. Vidal has extensive experience employing other treatments for a torn lateral meniscus, which stimulates an improved healing environment. Some of these treatments include:  (Please link each item to Biologics section)

  • PRP – Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
  • Stem Cells
  • BMAC – Bone Marrow Aspirate Concentrate

How is a lateral meniscus tear diagnosed?

Dr. Vidal will obtain a thorough patient history, including the onset of symptoms and if an injury occurred. A physical exam will follow where Dr. Vidal tests the injured leg’s range of motion, amount of pain, appearance and other indicators of cartilage injury. If he suspects bone involvement, and x-ray may be ordered and an MRI scan to see the meniscus.

Meniscus Restoration Specialist

Are you an athlete or an older individual who has experienced a recent knee injury resulting in instability and pain? If so, your lateral meniscus may have torn or become damaged. It is extremely important to receive treatment for any meniscus injury, because it can worsen if not properly treated. Complex knee specialist, Doctor Armando Vidal provides diagnosis as well as surgical treatment for patients in Vail, Aspen, and the surrounding Denver, Colorado communities who are experiencing meniscus damage. Contact Dr. Vidal’s team today!


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

The Steadman Clinic – Frisco, CO
226 Lusher Court
Ste 101
Frisco, CO 80443

The Steadman Clinic – Edwards, CO
322 Beard Creek Road
Edwards, CO 81632


Office Hours
Monday-Friday: 8:00am – 5:00pm

Mailing Address
181 Meadow Dr, Suite 400
Vail, CO 81657

970-401-8940 Direct
970-476-1100 General Appointment Scheduling