The Prevalence of Meniscal Pathology in Asymptomatic Athletes



Meniscal pathology is a commonly seen orthopedic condition that can affect a wide age range of patients. Athletes subject their menisci to an increased amount of stress during their careers and may increase their risk of meniscal pathology.


The purpose of this systematic review is to evaluate the prevalence of isolated meniscal pathology in asymptomatic athletes.


A systematic review was undertaken to determine the prevalence of meniscal pathology in asymptomatic athletes. A search of multiple databases was conducted. Recreational and higher-level athletes were included. Fourteen articles including 295 athletes (208 male, 87 female) were identified for inclusion (age range 14–66 years, mean 31.2 years). Meniscal pathology was visualized with magnetic resonance imaging and graded on a 1–4 scale (grades 1 and 2 indicating intrasubstance damage, grades 3 and 4 indicating a tear).


There was an overall prevalence of 27.2 % (105/386) of knees with intrasubstance meniscal damage (grades 1 and 2), and 3.9 % (15/386) of knees with a tear (grades 3 and 4). When athletes were split into those who participate in pivoting sports versus non-pivoting sports, pivoting athletes showed an overall prevalence of 15.3 % (31/202) of knees with intrasubstance meniscal pathology and 2.5 % (5/202) of knees with a tear. Non-pivoting athletes showed a prevalence of 54.5 % (61/112) of knees with intrasubstance meniscal pathology and 5.4 % (6/112) of knees with a tear.


The overall prevalence of isolated meniscal pathology in asymptomatic athletes was 31.1 % (27.2 % with intrasubstance meniscal damage and 3.9 % with a meniscal tear). More studies of age-comparable, non-athletic populations are necessary for direct comparison with these groups.

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Correspondence to David C. Flanigan.

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Conflict of interest

Corey Beals, Robert Magnussen, William Graham, and David Flanigan declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review. David Flanigan is a consultant for Smith & Nephew, Vericel, Conmed, Depuy-Mitek, and Zimmer.

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Beals, C.T., Magnussen, R.A., Graham, W.C. et al. The Prevalence of Meniscal Pathology in Asymptomatic Athletes. Sports Med 46, 1517–1524 (2016).

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