A common knee injury among athletes playing contact sports, a meniscus tear 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. The inside and outside of the knee have a meniscus.
What causes it?
Sudden tears of the meniscus most often occur during sports, although a tear can occur during many activities. The tear can be a result of direct contact, or through squatting and twisting. Older individuals are more prone to degenerative tears since cartilage weakens and wears thin over time. An awkward twist when getting up from a chair can cause a tear.
How do you know you have it?
When a meniscus is torn, many people report that a “pop” is felt. Most can continue walking following the tear, and athletes often continue playing. However, over the first few days the knee will swell and stiffen.
Common symptoms of meniscus tear are:
- Swelling and stiffness
- Locking of the knee
- Sensation of the knee “giving way”
- Unable to move knee through its full range of motion
How we fix it
The OSI team is here to listen, discuss your concerns, and examine you for signs and symptoms of a meniscus tear. Our goal is to have you enjoying the activities you love, without pain. While under our expert care, you may undergo the following:
- 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.
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 protocol: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
- NSAIDs: Medications such as ibuprofen
With additional injuries or if symptoms persist, you may need surgery. Meniscus tear surgery is done 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.