What is a Meniscus Tear?

The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of tough, rubbery cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between your shinbone and thighbone. It can be torn if you suddenly twist your knee while bearing weight on it. A torn meniscus is one of the most common knee injuries.

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Larissa Roux, MD FRCP Dip Sport Med, MPH, PhD, discusses meniscal tears in sports and activities.

Quiz: What is a Meniscus Tear?

Test your knowledge by answering the following questions:


Meniscus injuries are more common for people under the age of 30.

The meniscus is often injured as athletes attempt a twisting or weight-bearing motion. Meniscus injuries are more common for people over the age of 30, as the meniscus weakens as we age. They can also occur as a result of diseases such as osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of a meniscus tear include pain on one side of the knee.

Symptoms of a meniscus tear include pain on one side of the knee, localized swelling, loss of range of motion and a sensation of the knee locking or not being able to straighten it completely.

There are different types of meniscus tears.

You may experience a tear of the posterior horn of the meniscus, medial meniscus, lateral meniscus or bucket handle.

In most cases treatment of a meniscal tear includes the RICE protocol.

In most cases a meniscal tear can be treated with the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression and elevation), anti-inflammatories, bracing and physiotherapy to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the knee.

Following surgery, most patients will remain in the hospital for 2-4 days.

If surgery is required, an orthopedic surgeon will perform arthroscopic surgery to prevent further damage to the knee. Meniscus surgery is generally a day procedure, with patients going home on crutches. The recovery time is usually around two weeks.
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Behnad Honarbakhsh, MPT, BHK, CSCS, CAFCI, D.O.(c), discusses maniscus injuries in skiing.

What is a Meniscus Tear Knee Injury

Meniscus injury is an injury to the meniscus cartilage of the knee. Some people refer to it just as cartilage.

But the meniscus are two C-shaped cushions within the knee that help shock absorb the joint cartilage of the knee. And I can show you on a knee model, this is a knee looking at the front of the knee, this is the kneecap.

This is your thigh bone, and your shin bone. And as you can see, inside the knee, the meniscus cartilage can easily be seen. You’ve got your medial meniscus. You’ve got your lateral meniscus.

These are C-type rings of cartilage that protect the distal ends of your thigh bone and your shin bone, and they act as cushions or shock absorbers when you’re running or jumping and doing other activities like that, sporting activities.

These tears usually occur involving what we call the posterior horn of the meniscus, which is at the back. The medial meniscus, there’s a posterior horn, and they can extend into the body, which is the central portion of the meniscus.

And on the lateral side, it would be back here or here. If you have a bucket handle tear, that tear extends all the way around usually, and this piece would flip into the middle of the knee joint. You can get little radial tears.

All of these types of injuries cause pain to the knee on the side that the meniscus is involved. The most common meniscus injury that I see in my practice is the medial meniscus. That’s the most frequently injured of the two meniscus.

You do get lateral meniscus tears as well. So when you have a meniscus tear, you will feel pain, usually located to the joint line along that side. Not all of them require surgery. And so if you’ve injured this acutely, and have medial sided pain, some swelling, it will slow you down in whatever your athletic endeavors are.

Recommend that you treat it initially with some anti-inflammatory medications, ice, rest. Seek the services of a physiotherapist because sometimes that can settle your symptoms down.

And there are lots of people who have meniscus tears that don’t have symptoms. So they can resolve. But you can continue to irritate them with your activities.

If the physiotherapist, after a couple of months of treatment, cannot get the symptoms to settle, and you’re still disabled, then you should probably, at some point in that period, see your family doctor. And then, depending on your symptoms, he or she may wish to refer you to an orthopedic surgeon for consideration of further intervention.

If you do require surgery, it is done as a daycare procedure. It’s relatively simple. It’s an arthroscopic surgery. We use two little portal sites, where we pass a camera on either side of your kneecap, which allows us to visualize both meniscus from front to back quite easily, and any tears that we identify can be trimmed back with special instruments.

Once you’ve experienced a meniscal injury and are having pain, and it’s not setting after the first few days, you may consider seeing a physiotherapist for treatment or being referred to a physiotherapist by your family doctor.

Presenter: Dr. Jordan Leith, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Burnaby, BC

Local Practitioners: Orthopaedic Surgeon

Meniscus Injuries

Meniscus injuries are very common with all sorts of knee injuries, especially with ACL and MCL injuries.

The meniscus is sort of a wedge-like, rubber-like piece of tissue that sits between your femur and tibia. And usually with compression and twisting, you end up straining this tissue. It’ll feel like there’s something in your knee, or something’s catching, and it could be quite painful, especially with weight bearing.

And in ice hockey again it can come from a contact to the outside of the leg, which you know, gets the lateral meniscus or the medial meniscus or if you catch your blade in the ice and like your upper body twists and your skate doesn’t you can also strain the meniscus. So it has to be sort of a weight bearing and twisting motion that causes this injury.

The knee does tend to swell up if the injury is severe enough but sometimes you get a meniscus injury without any swelling.

You should get to a qualified physiotherapist as soon as you can for an assessment to determine first the severity and to make sure that it’s not going to lead to other detrimental effects.

That’s also when we want to start rehab right away to make sure any predisposing factors that got you there are taken care of and also we return you back to good stability, strength and balance in your extremity. Local Physiotherapist.

Presenter: Mr. Behnad Honarbakhsh, Physiotherapist, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Physiotherapist

Dr. Jordan Leith, MD, MHSc, FRCSC, discusses What is a Meniscus Tear Knee Injury

Behnad Honarbakhsh, MPT, BHK, CSCS, CAFCI, D.O.(c), discusses maniscus injuries in hockey.

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