Tearing of the menisci can occur with forceful twisting of the knee or may accompany other injuries such as ligament strains. An ‘unhappy triad’ is when a blow to the lateral side of the knee causes tearing of the medial collateral ligament, the anterior cruciate ligament and the menisci. This is often seen in sports that require a planting of the foot to quickly change direction. The medial meniscus is injured much more frequently than the lateral meniscus, mainly due to it being more securely attached to the tibia and, therefore, less mobile.
Cause of injury
Forceful twisting of the knee joint, most commonly seen when the knee is also bent. May accompany ligament strains well.
Signs and symptoms
Pain in the knee joint. Swelling. Catching or locking in the joint.
Complications if left unattended
A menisci tear can cause premature wear on the cartilage at the ends of the bones and under the patella. This can lead to arthritic conditions and a fluid build-up in the knee joint. Loose pieces of cartilage and jagged edges of a damaged meniscus and can cause catching and locking.
RICER. Anti-inflammatory medication.
Rehabilitation and prevention
When recovering from a menisci tear it is important to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee to prevent the injury from happening again. Strong quadriceps and hamstring again. Strong quadriceps and hamstrings help support the knee and prevent the twisting that might cause a tear. The muscles should be stretched regularly as well since tight muscles can also cause problems in the knee. After surgical repair of a meniscus tear weight bearing should be encouraged as tolerable, but as with any restart of activity should be done gradually.
A tear to a meniscus usually requires arthroscopic surgery to repair. The surgery requires removal of the torn edges of the meniscus but leaves the main body of the meniscus intact. Therefore, most meniscus tears heal fully with no long-term limitations.