There are many types of sports injuries, but one of the most common among athletes who play contact sports such as football and hockey are meniscus, or cartilage tears. Although cartilage tears are common in athletes, they aren’t the only ones who get them. Anyone can get this injury when kneeling, jumping, squatting, or lifting something heavy. The risk of a tear increases as you age, as the bones and tissues around your knee begin to wear down.
Menisci are the C-shaped disc of cartilage (soft tissue) that connect your thigh and shinbones. They not only act like shock absorbers for those bones, but also help to keep your knee stable.
You’ll know if you’ve torn your meniscus because your leg will swell, you’ll be unable to straighten it, and you will feel pain, especially if you twist your knee.
Depending on the kind of tear, how severe it is, and where it is, your doctor will recommend various treatment options. Conservative treatments typically include rest, pain relievers, and icing your knee to minimize the swelling. Physical therapy may also be prescribed to help strengthen the muscles around your knee and stabilize it.
If your injury is more severe, you may require surgery to repair it. First, the injury will be examined using an MRI and/or an arthroscope. An arthroscope is a slender tool equipped with a camera and a light, enabling your doctor to look inside your joints.
If surgery is warranted, your doctor has several options at his disposal. These include:
- Arthroscopic repair. This involves making small incisions in your knee and inserting an arthroscope to get a better look at the tear. Small devices that resemble darts are then placed along the tear to stitch it up. Over time, your body will simply absorb these stitches and the tear will heal.
- Arthroscopic partial meniscectomy. With this procedure, your surgeon will remove a portion of the torn meniscus, allowing your knee to function normally again.
- Arthroscopic total meniscectomy. During this procedure, your surgeon will completely remove the cartilage.
Arthroscopic surgery for cartilage tear is a low risk procedure and rarely results in complications such as damage to skin nerves, infections, or knee stiffness. Infection is avoided with the prescription of antibiotics and compression stockings are often recommended to help prevent a blood clot.
Following the procedure, you may need to wear a brace or cast to stabilize your knee, and crutches are used for several weeks to keep weight off the recuperating knee. Other post-operative recovery options include physical therapy and exercises you can do at home to increase your range of motion and strengthen your knee.
Typically, it takes about a month to recover from a partial or total meniscectomy and up to three months to recover from meniscus repair.
If you live in the Plano, Texas area, Tarpon Orthopedics can help you regain your mobility. We are experts in sports medicine, spine, and pain management, as well as joint replacement. Call (972) 596-1059 for a consultation today in our West Plano, North Plano, or Addison, Texas locations.