Providing specialized orthopedic care at six convenient locations across Northeast Wisconsin. Click to find a location near you.
(920) 560-1000

Meniscal Tears

A meniscus tear is a common knee injury among athletes playing contact sports and is also referred to as torn cartilage in the knee. The meniscus is important for normal function of the knee joint, stabilizing the knee, and protecting healthy cartilage. Both the inside and outside of the knee have a meniscus, and depending on the severity of the injury, one or both of those could tear.

What causes Meniscus Tears?

Sudden meniscus tears most often occur during sports, though a tear can occur during any type of activity. The torn cartilage can be a result of direct contact or through squatting and twisting.  Even an awkward knee twist when getting up from a chair can cause a meniscus tear. Older individuals are more prone to degenerative tears since cartilage weakens and wears thin over time.

How do you know you have a Meniscus Tear?

When a meniscus is torn, many people feel their knee has “popped.” Most can continue walking following the tear, and athletes often continue playing. However, over the next few days the knee will swell and stiffen.

Common symptoms of meniscus tear are:

  • Pain
  • Swelling and stiffness
  • Locking of the knee
  • Sensation of the knee “giving way”
  • Unable to move knee through its full range of motion

How does OSI fix Meniscus Tears?

An OSI board-certified knee specialist will examine you for signs and symptoms of a meniscus tear. Your OSI orthopedic surgeon will do one or more of the following to confirm the meniscus tear:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will perform a careful physical examination and check for tenderness along the joint line. A primary test is to bend, straighten, and rotate the knee: a clicking sound is produced if there is a meniscus tear.
  • X-rays: X-rays can identify conditions such as osteoarthritis.
  • MRI: An MRI may be ordered for a clearer image of the meniscus.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Small tears on the outer edge of the meniscus may not require surgical repair. If the knee is stable and symptoms do not linger, the following may be all that is necessary:

  • RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) protocol
  • NSAIDs: Medications such as ibuprofen

Surgical Treatment

If symptoms persist, or if you further injure the meniscus, your OSI orthopedic knee specialist may suggest surgery. Your OSI surgeon will perform your meniscus tear surgery arthroscopically using small incisions. The type of tear will dictate the procedure: a meniscectomy removes a torn portion of the meniscus, while meniscus repair surgery stitches the tear back together.