Understanding Meniscal Tears
The meniscus can be injured by trauma or through a degenerative process
What is the meniscus and how can it be injured?
The knee joint is buffered by a layer of articular cartilage that caps the ends of the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). Another cartilage component, called the meniscus, forms an extra cushion where the leg bones meet to form the knee joint -- like a wedged shock absorber that helps distribute weight evenly in the knee.
The meniscus can be injured by trauma or through a degenerative process. Sports injury accounts for most trauma-induced meniscal tears, usually from a bend-and-twist motion. Other injuries may be due to wear-and-tear of more brittle cartilage, a byproduct of the aging process. Often meniscal tears occur at the same time other components of the knee are injured. A common injury among athletes involves simultaneously the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL), and the meniscus.
In part due to the “C” shape of the meniscus, tears occur in a number of different locations. Flap, transverse, torn horn and bucket handle rank among the most common tears.