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What Your Torn Meniscus Means to You: August 30, 2012

An unexpected move can leave athletes sidelined for the season. But one of the most common knee injuries is easily treated.

It cost basketball player Blake Griffin his Olympic hoop dreams. Many everyday athletes feel his pain. A torn meniscus is one of the most common knee injuries.

“It’s usually a twisting injury while the knee is bent.  There’s quite a few ways to do it, and sometimes we don’t know exactly how.  But the most common way is with it flexed and bent and then putting weight on it, and it pinches it in such a way that it tears it,” says Dr. James Bynum, an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System. 

Which is why it’s common in sports. The ligaments keep balance across the knee. A torn meniscus is often a result of a poor landing.

“You’ll see it very commonly in most running, jumping oriented sports – soccer, football, even baseball and basketball,” says Dr. Bynum.

A torn meniscus causes pain, swelling and stiffness.  People will often feel a popping sensation. With rest and ice and medication, it may heal by itself.

“We treat it without surgery if the tears are small. But a lot of times we have to do what’s called an arthroscopy, where we go in through the small incision with the camera and if the tear is not too big, we just take out the part that’s torn. But sometimes we have to repair it with sutures,” says Dr. Bynum.

The procedure is done on an outpatient basis, but patients can expect to spend some time on the bench.

“Usually it’s a six week recovery if it’s not a big tear. Six to eight weeks,” says Dr. Bynum.

While it may be a season-ending injury, a meniscus repair leaves little or no lasting effect, leaving patients to get back to the game of life.