Meniscus tears are some of the most common knee injuries. They are usually caused by activities that forcefully twist or rotate the knee. The menisci are C-shaped pieces of cartilage that cushion the shin bone (tibia) from the thigh bone (femur). A torn meniscus can cause pain, swelling, stiffness, and difficulty extending the knee fully.
What causes meniscus tears?
Any sport or activity that causes you to forcefully twist or rotate the knee can cause a meniscus tear. This type of injury can result from:
- Sudden stops and turns
- Aggressive pivoting
- Deep squatting
- Heavy lifting
Older adults may suffer a torn meniscus with little or no trauma because of knee degeneration that occurs over time.
What are the menisci and what do they do?
Each knee has two menisci, one on the inside (medial) and one on the outside (lateral) of the knee. They are made of fibrous, rubbery tissue and are commonly referred to as knee cartilage. The menisci serve to transmit force across the knee joint with weightbearing activities such as running, jumping, or walking. Their crescent shape allows the rounded lower part of the femur to better fit with the flat top of the tibia, for better distribution of force over a larger area. The menisci help maintain joint stability, absorb some of the force during walking, and improve lubrication of the knee joint.
Meniscus tears FAQ's
Are meniscus tears associated with other injuries?
Meniscus tears are often associated with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. Other ligaments around the knee may also be damaged at the same time a meniscus tear occurs.
How are meniscus tears diagnosed?
In most cases, Dr. Yoon is able to diagnose meniscus tears during a clinical evaluation of the knee. If necessary, he may order diagnostic imaging.
How can I help prevent a meniscus tear?
You can help prevent this type of knee injury by keeping your legs, hips, abdominal, and core muscles strong. It is particularly important to stretch the hamstrings in the back of the thigh. Weak muscles can become tight, leading to knee injuries.