Cartilage and Osteochondral Injuries of the Knee

UC San Diego Health is a leader in osteochondral allograft transplants, in which cartilage and bone are transplanted to fill a significant joint defect.

We also offer tailored non-surgical treatment plans that focus on physical therapy, life-style modifications, medications and injections.

What are cartilage and osteochondral injuries?

The joint surfaces of the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone) are covered by a smooth layer of cartilage that forms the gliding surface of the knee. This cartilage can be damaged through athletic injuries, resulting in a disruption in this smooth gliding surface. An osteochondral injury or defect occurs when a piece of the cartilage, along with a part of the bone underneath, is chipped off, leaving a gap. When the entire cartilage surface of the knee begins to break down, osteoarthritis is usually the cause.

What are the symptoms of cartilage and osteochondral injuries?

Cartilage and osteochondral injuries can cause deep pain, stiffness and swelling. In some cases the loose body (piece that is broken off) may end up loose in the knee joint, causing locking of the knee (when the knee actually gets stuck in certain positions).

How are cartilage and osteochondral injuries diagnosed?

Diagnosis begins with a discussion with your doctor, a thorough examination and an MRI. X-rays do not provide an image of soft tissue. UC San Diego Health has both the advanced imaging equipment and specialized diagnostic radiologists to provide quality assessments of joint health.


Sports Medicine Appointments & Referrals

Sports Medicine Locations

UC San Diego Health offers expertise in sports medicine within family medicine, orthopedics, surgery and rehabilitation. Not all services are available at all locations.

La Jolla



Scripps Ranch

Our Specialists

Meet the sports medicine team.