Why Are Meniscus Tears So Common?

Meniscus tears are common knee injuries, especially among athletes and those with knee problems. But, anyone of any age can experience a meniscus tear. Fortunately, not all tears are severe, and only about 10% to 20% require surgery

Meniscus tears often go together with ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and other knee injuries. In fact, about 80% of those with an ACL injury also experience a meniscus tear.

What is your meniscus?

Each knee has two menisci: one on the inside and one on the outside. These cushiony, rubbery structures absorb impact between your thigh bone, also known as your femur, and your shin bone, also called your tibia. These two bones come together at your kneecap, and your meniscus is often thought of as a shock absorber.

In addition to providing cushioning to protect against impact, the menisci keep your knee stable and flexible. You can tear one or both of them. 

How does a meniscus get damaged?

The most common way people tear their meniscus is through a sports injury. Such injuries can be due to an impact to your knee, causing the meniscus to rip or tear, or due to over-rotation from a quick or sudden pivot.

Athletes who play sports such as soccer, basketball, tennis, football, and baseball often experience meniscus tears either from impact or from cutting and pivoting during games and practice. Meniscus tears are not just a problem for athletes, though. 

Older adults also are prone to meniscus tears because, as with other parts of your body, your menisci deteriorate with age. Cartilage weakens and thins out over the years, and when your menisci are thinner and weaker, simple movements that involve twisting or turning can cause a rip or tear.   

Meniscus tear symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness, weakness, and limited range of motion in the knee.

Why are meniscus injuries so common?

One reason these injuries are so common is that kids are specializing in sports at an earlier age. In previous generations, kids would play one sport in the fall, another in the spring, and possibly another in the summer. Today, more kids are encouraged to pick one sport to specialize in year-round, leading to a rise overuse and impact injuries. 

Or kids end up playing two or more sports in one season, which leads to numerous hours of practice without an opportunity for the body to rest and recover. One study found that 40% of emergency room visits for kids between ages 5 and 14 are due to sports-related incidents.

Meniscus tear treatment options

Fortunately, effective treatment options can have you back on your feet and back on the field. Orthopedic surgeon Steven E. Nolan, MD, has extensive experience and skills in all types of knee repairs. His treatment recommendations depend on the severity of your tear, your age, and your activity level. Treatment options include:

For more information on meniscus tears, prevention, and treatment, call our office in Sugar Land, Texas, to schedule a visit with Dr. Nolan. You can also request an appointment online through this website.

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