When people speak about torn cartilage in the knee, they are likely referring to a meniscal tear. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage that sits between the tibia (shinbone) and the femur (thighbone). Each knee features a meniscus on either side of the kneecap to help stabilize the joint and facilitate twisting motions.

Anyone at any age can develop a meniscal tear, but athletes are particularly susceptible to this injury. That’s because athletic motions like sudden deceleration, pivoting, and twisting can place a great deal of strain on the knee and its components, potentially tearing a portion of one or both menisci. Often, meniscal tears occur simultaneously with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.

The symptoms of a meniscal tear may vary, but usually include:

  • Pain that worsens when rotating or twisting the knee
  • Swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • A feeling that the knee is locked in place
  • Trouble straightening the knee fully

Some patients say they felt or heard a “pop” when the tear takes place. In many instances, marked symptoms are not present until a few hours or even a day after the injury. It’s important to promptly consult with a physician following a knee injury, but if immediate care is not available, follow the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) until you can receive professional treatment.

Treatment options for a meniscal tear will vary according to the extent of the damage, but most physicians begin by suggesting conservative therapies. For some patients, pain medicine and a regimen of physical therapy are all that’s necessary to effectively manage any discomfort. For others, surgery may be suggested to repair or trim a portion of the meniscus.

If you are experiencing symptoms of a meniscal tear and would like to consult with a physician regarding your treatment options, contact Florida Medical Orthopaedics, Sports Medicine & Spine. Our associates will be happy to refer you to an orthopaedic specialist within our physician network.

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