Articles Cartilage

April 17, 2018

This article outlines the different types of cartilages in your body as well as common cartilage injuries and their causes.

There are 3 main types of cartilages:

Elastic cartilage is the most flexible and found in the ear and throat. To appreciate this try scrunching up your ear then let go, your ear will always spring back to its original shape.

Hyaline cartilage provides more rigidity and strength and is found in the rib cage, immature skeleton, and joint surfaces of the bones. It is extremely slippery and enables the joints to move smoothly.

Fibrocartilage is the strongest of the 3 types and found between the vertebrae (intervertebral discs) and knee joints (meniscus).  This cartilage is extremely tough and resilient, studies have demonstrated running can place forces up to 5 times your body weight on your knees!

Your cartilages have minimal blood supply so healing is extremely limited. Therapies involving stem cells, donor tissue, cell transplantation and surgical intervention to stimulate repair have shown some promising results but the art of artificially regenerating cartilage has not yet been perfected.

Common causes of cartilage injuries include overuse and acute trauma, and will eventually lead to osteoarthritis.


Activities that can cause damage to the cartilage are:

  • repetitive impact
  • repetitive pivoting/ twisting
  • prolonged/repeated bending or lifting
  • unstable joints from loose ligaments due to previous trauma or hypermobile joints
  • getting older with normal everyday use (think ‘old age’ osteoarthritis)
Repetitive impact can damage cartilage

Cartilage Tears

Cartilage tears can occur when there is:

  • trauma to the joint surface eg. fractures into the joint line and dislocations. This is commonly seen after falls and motor vehicle accidents.
  • twisting under load eg. meniscal tears from suddenly pivoting on one leg, or acute intervertebral disc tears from lifting and twisting with a bent back.
Knee cartilage tear types

Please keep in mind the information provided is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute to consult your treating health professional. If you have any specific questions or require assistance with your individual treatment requirements please do not hesitate to contact MyFamily Physio Mona Vale, Northern Beaches Sydney.

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