Occult osteochondral lesions (bone bruises) have been documented on magnetic resonance images in more than 80% of patients sustaining acute anterior cruciate ligament ruptures. Despite the high prevalence of these lesions, little is known about the histologic changes in the adjacent articular cartilage. Ten patients with acute anterior cruciate ligament ruptures who had a preoperatively documented (by magnetic resonance imaging) geographic bone bruise at the sulcus terminalis on the lateral femoral condyle underwent a 3-mm diameter trephine biopsy of the articular cartilage and subchondral bone overlying the bone bruise at the time of anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. Biopsy samples of the articular cartilage and subchondral bone were stained with hematoxylin and eosin and toluidine blue. All patients had significant arthroscopic and histologic articular cartilage irregularity in the area overlying the bone bruise. Arthroscopic findings of the articular cartilage included softening (dimpling), fissuring, or overt chondral fracture. Histologic examination revealed degeneration of the chondrocytes and loss of toluidine blue staining in the articular cartilage (loss of proteoglycan). There was necrosis of osteocytes in the subchondral bone, and empty lacuna were visible. This study defines the exact histologic changes of the articular cartilage overlying a geographic bone bruise secondary to an acute anterior cruciate ligament tear. Our findings suggest that a geographic bone bruise found on magnetic resonance imaging indicates substantial damage to normal articular cartilage homeostasis.