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The bones of the knee make up one of the largest joints in your body and also one of the most complex. Due to the constantly active nature of the joint, the knee also suffers from wear and tear more than most joints in the body, leading to further issues.
The Meniscus consists of a U-shaped patch of tissue that sits between the shin bone and the leg bone and acts as a shock absorber for the knee. Joint Specialists consider Meniscal tears among the most common knee injuries. Athletes, and more specifically those who play contact sports, present a much higher risk for meniscal tears. However, anyone at any age can tear their meniscus.
What is a Meniscus Tear?
Menisci can tear in several different ways. Physicians classify tears by the shape of the tear as well as the location of the tear. Sports-related meniscal tears often occur alongside other knee injuries, such as ACL tears.
What Causes Meniscus Tears?
Sudden sports injuries commonly cause meniscus tears. Players can squat and twist the knee too far, causing the tear. Direct impact, such as a football tackle sometimes provides enough force to injure the knee.
Older patients tend to suffer more from degenerative meniscal tears. Cartilage tends to weaken and wear down over time, making it more prone to tearing. Even twisting awkwardly when rising from a chair can cause enough stress to tear the tissue, if the menisci has weakened enough with age.
Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear
Patients may feel a “popping” sensation when they tear the meniscus. Most patients will maintain the ability to walk on their injured knee, even athletes can still sometimes continue playing with a torn meniscus. Over the course of several days, the knee will gradually stiffen and swell. A Baker’s Cyst may form after the knee suffers any internal injuries.
The most common symptoms of meniscal tear include:
- Catching or locking sensation in knee
- The knee might “give way”
- Inability to fully move your knee through its range of motion
Foregoing treatment for too long may lead to a piece of meniscus coming loose and drifting into the joint space. This can cause the knee to lock, slip, and pop.
Some meniscus tears can heal on their own, while others may need surgical intervention. Patients with extensive damage may also require a total meniscus transplant.