Pop Goes the Knee! Torn Meniscus In Athletes

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Although a torn meniscus can happen to anyone, it is most common in athletes, particularly in sports that involve twisting your knee or landing heavy like soccer, football, gymnastics and basketball.

It’s among the most common injury for young athletes. Michael Griesser, MD explains how it happens.

Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.

Typically, when you tear your meniscus, you’ll feel a pop in your knee. You’ll most likely still be able to walk. Many athletes keep playing in spite of the tear. Within a couple of days you may experience:

  • Limited range of motion in your knee
  • Feeling like your knee is “giving away”
  • Locking of your knee
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling

Treating Your Torn Meniscus

Treating a meniscus tear depends on the size, location, and intensity of the tear.

Your doctor will examine your knee and likely will order an X-ray and an MRI to have pictures of your knee bones and tissues.

Your meniscus might be able to heal at home with self-care. You could need crutches to use while the pain and swelling lessen. A brace will also help to support your knee and make it more stable.

In addition to over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, your doctor will likely recommend you use the RICE method to manage pain and swelling.

RICE stands for:

  • Rest. Avoid putting weight on your leg
  • Ice. For 10 to 20 minutes at a time, three to four times a day, put an ice pack on your knee
  • Compress. Wrap the area with an elastic bandage or compression wrap
  • Elevate. Raise your leg above heart level

Physical therapy might also be recommended to help you recover back to your normal range of motion and activities.

In other cases, you could need surgery to treat a torn meniscus. Knee arthroscopy is one type of surgery that can repair or trim the meniscus, and is usually used in younger patients with less severe tears.

A meniscus transplant is another surgical option. It is used if your meniscus is torn so extremely that all or most of the cartilage is torn or removed.

How To Reduce Your Risk

As an athlete, there are things you can do to help avoid tearing your meniscus. Dr. Griesser explains.

Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.

Here are additional suggestions from the National Institutes of Health for reducing your risk:

  • Choose shoes that fit and are in good condition
  • Increase your activity level and endurance slowly instead of all at once
  • Keep leg muscles strong with exercises like walking stairs, riding a bike, using weights
  • Warm up and stretch the front and back of your thighs before exercising or participating in sports

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.