The knee has two cartilages or menisci – medial and lateral. The medial meniscus is more frequently injured during soccer than the lateral, and is commonly torn in combination with a medial collateral ligament.
The meniscus found between joint structures is called fibrocartilage. This hyaline cartilage functions to provide a smooth gliding surface between bones and absorb shock. When this cartilage is damaged, there is increased wear on the bone and degenerative and/or arthritic changes may occur. Joint movement may become painful and restricted. As the meniscus is mostly avascular (lacks blood supply), when torn or injured, it does not repair on its own due to this limited blood supply.
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With so much running and cutting in the game, a simple twist of the knee or a rapid change in direction can lead to a torn meniscus. Symptoms include the athlete’s knee “locking,” making it difficult to fully extend the injured leg. There could be a “popping” sound, along with pain, swelling and a decreased range of motion.
Remember the P.R.I.C.E. principle: PROTECT and REST the injured area. ICE for 10-20 minutes every two hours for the first couple of days, COMPRESS the knee using a wrap while icing, and ELEVATE to promote circulation.
A decrease in swelling will assist the physician in making a proper diagnosis of the tear.
Meniscus tears can commonly occur with severe knee sprains, so be sure to visit a doctor in order to rule out a more serious injury as surgery may be required to repair damage or remove floating pieces. Treatment from a physiotherapist is important as rehab exercises will increase the athlete’s strength and range of motion.
The player cannot return until he or she is cleared by a doctor.
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