314-909-1666
Call Today!
  • RSS Feed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google

Meniscal Cartilage Tear

February 26, 2010

Meniscal (Cartilage) Tear
What is a meniscal (cartilage) tear?
How does it occur?
What are the symptoms?
How is it diagnosed?
How is it treated?
When can I return to my sport or activity?
How can a meniscal tear be prevented?

back to top
What is a meniscal (cartilage) tear?
The meniscus is a piece of cartilage in the middle of you knee. Cartilage is tough, smooth, rubbery tissue that lines and cushions the surface of the joints. There is a meniscus on the inner side of your knee (the medial meniscus) and a meniscus on the outer side (the lateral meniscus). They attach to the top of the shin bone (tibia), make contact with thigh bone (femur), and act as shock absorbers during weight-bearing activities.

back to top
How does it occur?
A meniscal tear can occur when the knee is forcefully twisted or occasionally with minimal or no trauma, such as when you are squatting.

back to top
What are the symptoms?
You may have pain in your knee joint. You may have immediate swelling with fluid in the joint, called an effusion. You may be unable to fully bend or straighten your leg. Your knee may lock or get stuck in one place. You may hear a snap or pop at the time of the injury. A chronic (old) meniscal tear may give you pain on and off during activities, with or without swelling. Your knee may occasionally lock and you may have stiffness in the knee.

back to top
How is it diagnosed?
Your doctor will examine your knee and find that your have tenderness along the joint line. Your doctor will move your knee in several ways that may cause pain along the injured meniscal surface. Your doctor may order x-rays to see if there are injuries to the bones in your knee, but a meniscal tear will not show up on a x-ray. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is something useful in diagnosing a menical tear.

back to top
How is it treated?
Treatment may include:
– Applying ice to your knee for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days until the pain and swelling are gone
– Elevating your knee by placing a pillow underneath your leg
– Wrapping an elastic bandage around your knee to keep the swelling from getting worse
– Wearing a knee immobilizer or other brace to prevent further injury
– Using crutches
– Taking anti-inflammatory or pain medication prescribed by your doctor
Surgery is needed to repair or remove large torn pieces of cartilage. While you are recovering from your injury, you will need to change your sport or activity to one that does not make your condition worse. For example, you may need to swim instead of run.

back to top
When can I return to my sport or activity?
The goal is to rehabilitation is to return you to your sport or activity as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen tour injury, which could lead to permanent damage. Everyone recovers from injury at a different rate. Return to your sport or activity will be determined by how soon your knee recovers, not by how many days or weeks it have been since your injury occurred. In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better. You may safely return to your sport or activity when, starting from the top of the list and progressing to the end, each of the following is true:
– Your injured knee can be fully straightened and bent without pain
– Your knee and leg have regained normal strength compared to the uninjured knee and leg
– Your knee is not swollen
– You are able to jog straight ahead without limping
– You are able to sprint straight ahead with limping
– You are able to do 45-degree cuts
– You are able to do 90-degree cuts
– You are able to do 20-yard figure-of-eight runs
– You are able to do 10-yard figure-of-eight runs
– You are able to jump on both legs without pain and jump on the injured leg without pain
If you feel that your knee is giving way or if you develop pain or have swelling in your knee, you should see your doctor.

back to top
How can a meniscal tear be prevented?
Unfortunately, most injuries to knee cartilage occur during accidents that are not preventable. However, you may be able to avoid these injuries by having strong thigh and hamstring muscles, as well as by maintaining a good leg-stretching routine. When skiing, be sure that your ski bindings are set correctly by a trained professional so that your skis will release when you fall.

Pierre Rouzier, M.D. THE SPORTS MEDICINE PATIEND ADVISOR

Previous post:

Next post: