A meniscus tear is a common knee injury, especially for athletes who participate in contact sports. However, people of all ages and activity levels can tear a meniscus. The knee joint is located where the femur (thighbone), tibia (shinbone), and patella (kneecap) meet. The thigh bone and shinbone are stabilized and cushioned by two, c-shaped, tough and rubbery sections of cartilage called the menisci. An injury to one section of the cartilage is called a meniscus tear.
A meniscus tear often occurs by a sudden twist or rotation of the knee during physical activity. However, kneeling, squatting and heavy lifting can tear a meniscus as well. As we age, the menisci thin and become brittle, increasing the risk of a torn meniscus. Meniscus tears are named based on the way they look and where they occur in the meniscus. An Orthopedist may refer to a torn meniscus as a bucket handle, flap or radial tear. Sports-related tears may happen along with other injuries to the knee, including a tear to the anterior cruciate ligament.
Patients describe feeling a popping sensation, pain, swelling and the knee locking in place following a meniscus tear. A meniscus tear evaluation should include a McMurray test. This involves bending, straightening and rotating the knee. This movement will cause a clicking sound when a meniscus is torn. Imaging tests may be ordered to confirm the tear and/or diagnose similar symptoms.
Treatment options for a meniscus tear may vary based on type, size and location of the tear. The outside of the meniscus has a rich blood supply. A tear in this area may heal on its own. Nonsurgical treatment of a meniscus tear, like many sports injuries, starts with the RICE protocol – rest, ice, compression and elevation. Anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin and ibuprofen often help reduce pain and swelling. Many patients benefit from physical therapy following a meniscus tear.
Should noninvasive treatments fail, a meniscus tear may need to be repaired surgically with a knee arthroscopy. Pontchartrain Orthopedics & Sports Medicine can create a care plan specially suited for your specific meniscus tear.