The prevalence, characterization, and classification of acute, post-traumatic, occult subcortical fractures of the knee, identified at magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, were evaluated prospectively in 120 consecutive patients first seen with acute posttraumatic hemarthrosis of the knee. Occult subcortical femoral and tibial fractures were identified in 72% of patients. A modified MR imaging classification is suggested based on a combination of the appearances of such lesions at MR imaging and their short-term osteochondral sequelae. Among 67% of a cohort of 21 patients first seen with what have been described as occult geographic subcortical fractures, osteochondral sequelae were seen at follow-up MR imaging 6-12 months later. The evidence from this study indicates that specific subcategories of occult subcortical knee fractures are associated with an inordinately high prevalence of osteochondral sequelae, especially significant cartilage damage.