When a high profile athlete is taken down by a torn meniscus it makes news, and makes many people believe it’s primarily jocks who suffer this injury. That’s just not the case.
“It’s extremely common and happens to almost patients of any age. We’ll see it in children as young as six, seven, eight sometimes. But even older patients up to 80s and 90s,” says Dr. James Bynum, orthopedic sports medicine physician on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
The meniscus is a cushion of cartilage in the knee that provides padding and stability. It can tear as the result of an injury- from twisting or a sudden stop.
“Sometimes patients will feel a pop. Oftentimes they can tell you where it hurts with one finger pointing to one side or the other of the knee. It’s often associated with a lot of swelling and a lot of popping, clicking,” says Dr. Bynum.
Other times tears result from chronic degeneration. Cartilage weakens and frays over time, so older people can tear a meniscus just doing everyday activities, especially if they’re overweight because that puts excess stress on their joints.
Studies found the elderly may not experience pain from minor tears, meaning they don’t always need surgery.
“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 most of the time, if the tear is not too big we just take out the part that’s torn,” says Dr. Bynum.
Depending on the size and location, surgeons may be able to repair the cartilage.
“We’re sewing the torn meniscus back to the capsule or the wall inside the knee and leaving it still long enough for it to heal. From simple sutures to some devices that have basically like little cufflinks that we poke through the capsule,” says Dr. Bynum.
Lending the tattered knee is a common and reliable procedure- one that can help people get back up and moving.