Meniscus tears are among the most common knee injuries. Athletes, particularly those who play contact sports, are at risk for meniscus tears. However, anyone at any age can tear a meniscus. When people talk about torn cartilage in the knee, they are usually referring to a torn meniscus.
Three bones meet to form your knee joint: your thighbone (femur), shinbone (tibia), and kneecap (patella). Your kneecap sits in front of the joint to provide some protection.
Two wedge-shaped pieces of cartilage act as “shock absorbers” between your thighbone and shinbone. These are called meniscus. They are tough and rubbery to help cushion the joint and keep it stable.
Normal anatomy of the knee. The menisci are two rubbery disks that helps cushion the knee joint.
Sudden meniscus tears often happen during sports. Players may squat and twist the knee, causing a tear. Direct contact, like a tackle, is sometimes involved.
Older people are more likely to have degenerative meniscus tears. Cartilage weakens and wears thin over time. Aged, worn tissue is more prone to tears. Just an awkward twist when getting up from a chair may be enough to cause a tear, if the menisci have weakened with age.
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 meniscus tear are:
Without treatment, a piece of meniscus may come loose and drift into the joint. This can cause your knee to slip, pop, or lock.
If your symptoms persist with nonsurgical treatment, then it may be time to consider surgical treatment.
Procedure. Knee arthroscopy is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures. In it, a miniature camera is inserted through a small incision (portal). This provides a clear view of the inside of the knee. Dr. Alosh will insert miniature surgical instruments through other portals to trim or repair the tear.
Partial Meniscectomy: In this procedure, the damaged meniscus tissue is trimmed away.
Meniscus Repair: Some meniscus tears can be repaired by suturing (stitching) the torn pieces together.
Regular exercise is critical to restore your knee mobility and strength is necessary. You will start with exercises to improve your range of motion. Strengthening exercises will gradually be added to your rehabilitation plan.
For the most part, rehabilitation can be carried out at home, although you may require physical therapy. Rehabilitation time for a meniscus repair is about 3 months. A meniscectomy requires less time for healing — approximately 3 to 4 weeks.