STAMFORD, Conn. -- Whether you are an athlete or a weekend warrior, being aware of how to prevent injuries is of the utmost importance. Meniscus tears can occur in people of all ages. But what exactly is a meniscus?
There are actually two menisci in each knee that distribute the weight of the body and reduce friction in the knee. The menisci sit in the knee joint between the femur and the tibia along with cartilage, a smooth, gliding layer that allows pain-free motion at the joint. The menisci are crescent-shaped fibrocartilage structures that protect the cartilage from damage and allow the joint to continue to move freely. The shape and attachments of the menisci within the knee are essential to the function of protecting the cartilage in the knee from damage with activity such as walking, running and playing sports.
Meniscus tears can occur from an injury, ‘wear and tear’ or early arthritis of the knee. Tears from an injury usually happen when a person twists a knee awkwardly or has a collision or fall. Meniscus tears from trauma can occur alone or in combination with ligament injuries.
Symptoms of a meniscus tear can include: pain on the knee joint over the meniscus, pain with bearing weight on the affected knee, pain with twisting, turning, or pivoting on the knee such as getting in and out of bed or entering/exiting a car. The knee will often swell with a meniscus tear.
Treatment of meniscus tears varies based on the nature of the injury and the needs and demands of each patient. Traumatic meniscus injuries are generally treated with surgery to either repair the meniscus or remove a portion of the meniscus that is no longer functional.
The meniscus only has a blood supply to certain parts and that blood supply decreases with age. Therefore, meniscus repair may not be appropriate for all meniscus injuries or all patient ages. Recovery from meniscus surgery ranges from several weeks to several months and can include bracing, crutches and physical therapy.
If you suspect a meniscus tear, it is important to be evaluated by an orthopedic care provider so that you receive the most appropriate treatment.
Dr. Moira McCarthy is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine. She practices at both the HSS Outpatient Center in Stamford and the hospital’s main campus in New York.