It is difficult to read a sports page in any major newspaper these days and not see a report dealing with an athlete sidelined by a knee injury. Knee injuries are occurring with alarming frequency at all levels of athletic participation – from “Peewee” to adult, from recreational to professional.
Most younger athletes injure their knees by direct trauma or by a twisting type injury. Individuals can injure their ligaments, articular cartilage or menisci. A traumatic meniscal tear occurs with little or no trauma. These degenerative tears are seen more in the older population. As part of the aging process, the water content of the menisci decreases and a gradual weakening occurs. This leads to a decrease in the force necessary to tear a meniscus.
Your meniscus is crescent-shaped cartilage, cupped to help hold bones in place. You have one on each side of your joint – on the outside, the lateral meniscus, and on the side closest to your other knee, the medial meniscus. When healthy, the meniscus absorbs shock by cushioning and distributing forces across your joint. It also helps stabilize your knee by controlling its rotation. The outer edge of the meniscus is supplied by nutrient-rich blood.
Meniscal tears can cause locking to the knee, buckling of the knee, or just pain and swelling. Treatment consists of rest, ice, and elevation. In instances of locking, arthroscopy is necessary to repair the injury. Depending on the age of the individual and the symptoms that occur, one’s treatment is tailored to each individual. Treatment may be conservative with physical therapy or may require surgical intervention.