Meniscus tears are common, especially in athletes who play contact sports. There are two menisci in each knee, one on the outside of the knee and the other on the inner side of the knee. They sit between the femur (the thighbone) and the tibia (the shinbone). The menisci are two “C” shaped pads of fibrocartilage that provide shock absorption and distribute weight evenly across the knee and are important for knee stability.
What causes a meniscus tear?
A meniscus tear can result from acute trauma due to sports that involve cutting and pivoting and from a direct hit. Importantly, the meniscus can degenerate with age creating a risk of a tear from the simplest of actions such as getting up out of a chair. Degenerative tears are common in people over age 50. Over 50% meniscus tears occur along with a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament and significantly affect knee stability. Importantly, chronic ACL injuries are associated with an increased risk of a meniscus tear.
What are the types of meniscus tears?
- A bucket handle tear gets its name because it is shaped like a bucket handle. This type of tear is common in young athletes. These tears are most common in men.
- A flap tear is another type that occurs when a part of the meniscus is torn away from the main body of the meniscus. These tears are common in older adults.
- A radial tear occurs when the outer edge of the meniscus is torn. Radial tears are common in older adults. Radial and bucket tears are most common in women.
What are the symptoms of a meniscus tear?
The symptoms of a meniscus tear can vary depending on the location and severity of the injury. Symptoms include:
- Pain, particularly when twisting or rotating your knee
- Catching or locking of your knee
- A popping or clicking sensation
- Stiffness and swelling
- Difficulty straightening your knee fully
- A sensation of knee buckling
How is a meniscus tear diagnosed?
A meniscus tear is diagnosed through a combination of a physical examination and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Dr. Harrison will ask how you injured your knee and your symptoms. He will perform a physical exam checking for tenderness, swelling, and range of motion in your knee, and perform special tests to identify a meniscus tear. An MRI can show the location and extent of the tear. Although an X-ray will not show a meniscus tear, all patients will get X-rays to look for arthritis, loose bodies, tumors, and other causes of knee pain.
Contact Dr. Harrison to schedule a consultation to identify the cause of your knee pain and your treatment options.
Dr. Harrison is a board-certified fellowship trained orthopedic and sports medicine surgeon who specializes in arthroscopic knee and shoulder surgery. He is the Head Team Physician for the United States Alpine Ski Team and the Head Team Physician for Weber State University for over 20 plus years. Dr. Harrison completed his undergraduate degree at Baylor University and received his medical degree from the University of Arizona College of Medicine. He completed his orthopedic residency at the University of Utah followed by a fellowship in sports medicine at the Cincinnati Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center. He finished his formal training with an additional AO Trauma Fellowship in Bern, Switzerland.
At a Glance
Dr. Jeffrey Harrison
- Board-Certified, Fellowship-Trained Orthopedic Surgeon
- Head Team Physician US Women's Alpine Team and Weber State University
- Performs over 800 surgeries per year
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