The lateral meniscus is the meniscus shock absorber seated on the top of the tibia (shinbone) on the lateral (outer) side of the knee joint.

menisci on top of tibial plateau

The menisci sit on the top of the tibia. The lateral (outer) meniscus is more 'O-shaped' than the medial meniscus, which is more 'C-shaped'. It is also more mobile and has an intimate relationship to the tendon of the popliteus muscle.

Popliteus muscle and tendon in relation to the lateral meniscus

Looking from the back of the knee, one can appreciate the intimate relationship of the lateral meniscus and the popliteus tendon, which pierces the capsule at the point on its way to insert on the femur.


Important anatomical differences

The lateral meniscus and popliteus tendon form part of the 'posterolateral corner', where injuries may be a challenge to the surgeon because of the complexity in this region. The lateral meniscus differs considerably from the medial meniscus. It is O-shaped, rather than C-shaped, and is much more mobile than the medial meniscus and there is much less attachement around the outer rim to the capsular walls. In addition, the tendon of the popliteus muscle passes between the outer rim at the back of the meniscus and the capsule. 


Injury of the small muscle at the back of the knee may be confused with a torn meniscus.

Clearing up confusion about knee cartilage

Video discussing why people mix up the two kinds of tissue referred to as 'cartilage'.

An important discussion of two patients whose symptoms changed and worsened after a partial lateral meniscectomy.

Meniscus from top

Another view of the 'knee cartilages'.

Knee meniscus

Overview of the anatomy of the 'knee cartilages'.



Cysts of the lateral meniscus. Crowell MS, Westrick RB and Fogarty BT. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2013 Jun; 8(3): 340–348.

Associated tears of the lateral meniscus in anterior cruciate ligament injuries: risk factors for different tear patterns. Feucht MJ, Bigdon S, Bode G, Salzmann GM, Dovi-Akue D, Südkamp NP, and Niemeyer P. J Orthop Surg Res. 2015; 10: 34.

See also: