There was a 55 year old gentleman, a bit overweight, who squatted down to pick up something off the floor and immediately had pain in his left knee. His evaluation was consistent with a meniscus tear and MRI confirmed the diagnosis. I performed arthroscopic surgery on his knee and removed the torn piece of meniscus that was getting stuck between his femur and tibial bones in his knee joint. He had immediate pain relief and has resumed all his usual activities since surgery.
Your knee is composed of three bones: the thighbone (femur), the shinbone (tibia), and the kneecap (patella), as well as the soft tissue that connects them. Between your femur and your tibia are two C-shaped discs of cartilage that act as shock absorbers for the bones and help keep your knee stable. These are your menisci (plural of meniscus), and they can be torn, particularly if the knee twists suddenly while it is bent. In sports and orthopedics, a tear of a meniscus is a rupturing of one or more of the fibrocartilage strips in the knee called menisci. When doctors and patients refer to “torn cartilage” in the knee, they actually may be referring to an injury to a meniscus at the top of one of the tibiae. Menisci can be torn during innocuous activities such as walking or squatting. They can also be torn by traumatic force encountered in sports or other forms of physical exertion.
You might feel a “pop” when you tear a meniscus. Most people can still walk on their injured knee. Many athletes keep playing with a tear. Over 2 to 3 days, your knee will gradually become more stiff and swollen.
The most common symptoms of meniscal tear are:
– Pain in the center or side of the knee, especially when twisting the knee or squatting
– Stiffness and swelling
– Catching or locking of your knee
– The sensation of your knee “giving way”
– You are not able to move your knee through its full range of motion
If you feel any of these symptoms you should contact a doctor immediately to prevent from further damage. Without treatment, a piece of meniscus may come loose and drift into the joint. This can cause your knee to slip, pop or lock.
Meniscus Tear Prevention
Because they generally happen without any warning, meniscus tears can be hard to prevent. You can reduce your risk, though, by taking these precautions:
– Get regular exercise, including strength training for your leg muscles. Strong leg muscles help stabilize and protect the knee.
– Always warm up and stretch properly before playing sports or engaging in any strenuous activity involving your legs.
– Give your muscles plenty of time to rest and recover between activities.
– Get the right footwear for your sport, and keep shoes, boots, or skates laced up tight while you play.
– Learn and use the proper techniques for your sport.
– If you’ve previously had another knee injury, a brace or wrap can give your knee added support.