Meniscal tears are a common sports injury, and can vary widely in severity and pain.

Meniscal tears are a particularly common injury among athletes playing contact sports, or any sport that involves twisting of the knee. Meniscal tears frequently occur alongside other knee injuries—most frequently along with an ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, tear.

This article reviews the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for a meniscus tear.

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Anatomy of the Meniscus

The meniscus is a rubbery, flexible piece of cartilage that provides cushioning between the bones in the knee.

There are actually two menisci in each knee. Each individual meniscus is formed to fit the area of the joint surrounding it:

  • The medial meniscus, which is located on the inside of the knee, is shaped like a C.
  • The lateral meniscus, located on the outer side of the knee, is shaped like a U.

Together, the meniscus functions to reduce shock and absorb the amount of impact on the leg and knee when in motion or standing, to provide stability to the knee, and to facilitate smooth motion between the surfaces of the knee.

Each meniscus is sandwiched between layers of articular cartilage that coat the bottom of the thigh bone (femur) and top of the shin bone (tibia), where they meet to form the knee. If a meniscus is damaged and does not function correctly, then more force is placed on the articular cartilage, which in turn makes it more likely to break down over time, a condition known as knee osteoarthritis.

Getting an accurate diagnosis and medical attention is important to help prevent further knee damage, or increased wear-related degeneration in the knee joint over time.

See Knee Cartilage Repair, Regeneration, and Replacement

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