Sports Medicine Moment: Common Knee Injuries – Meniscus Tear

Sports Medicine Moment: Common Knee Injuries – Meniscus Tear

Written by: Tristen Robinson

Tristen Robinson, M.S., ATC, LAT is a BUZZ Gear Up Blogger and an instructor at Andrew Jackson High School, for the sports medicine magnet program. Checkout the program’s Facebook page at Andrew Jackson High School Sports Medicine.


Let’s take a mini break from talking about knee ligaments, and discuss another important structure of the knee; the MENISCUS also known as, knee cartilage and the shock absorbers. Our knees can take a constant pounding from running and jumping. The reason we don’t buckle and fall to the ground or have problems in other areas of our body such as the hip and back is because, the meniscus is able to absorb the force and prevent or decrease that force affecting any of the aforementioned body areas. The importance of the meniscus is why it is number two on our monthly list of common knee injuries to discuss.

As mentioned previously, the meniscus’ main function is to absorb shock or force from the ground when landing. However, unlike most injuries where damage to a structure is caused by an excessive force of whatever the structure was trying to prevent anyway; meniscus tears have almost the same mechanism of injury (MOI) as for an ACL tear, planting and twisting. If you remember, planting and twisting simply means that the foot is stationed (planted) on the ground, while the body changes directions (twisting). Someone who has suffered a meniscus tear will complain of pain in the knee (specific to the joint line). There may also be some swelling and complaints of the knee “catching” or “locking” when they try to straighten it.

Once again, similar to a suspected ACL tear, first aid treatment for a meniscus tear would be to wrap with a compression bandage or splint the knee if perceived necessary. Crutches or assistive walking devices maybe needed as weight bearing may be painful. MRI imaging is of how this injury is diagnosed.

However, unlike an ACL tear, recovery time from a meniscus tear is not as long. In some cases, surgery may not even be needed and the person and do orthopedic rehab and back to playing capacity in almost half the recovery time as it would be from an ACL surgery (other factors may play a role in recovery time). Also unlike the ACL, prevention from a meniscus tear is highly unlikely. If a meniscus tear is not isolated, meaning no other structure was damaged in the knee other than the meniscus; it is often accompanied with another injury (e.g. ACL tear). Since the MOI for a meniscus tear is identical to an ACL tear, it is important to make sure the diagnosis is done by an appropriate healthcare professional (DPT, ATC, DO, etc.) for proper treatment and care.


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