What is a meniscus?
In the knee joint there are two half-moon-shaped pieces of cartilage called menisci lying on the shinbone. The meniscus is called the lateral meniscus; the inner meniscus is called the medial meniscus.
These act as shock absorbers when the body walks or runs, by dispersing the weight. This protects the knee cartilage that covers the bones by allowing the surfaces to slide against one another without damage to either surface.
The menisci also help to keep the knee stable.
A meniscus injury is a common rugby injury, occurring mostly during tackles when the knee is twisted or over-extended.
An injured medial meniscus is more common and can result from an impact on the outside of the knee. It will often be injured along with the medial ligament.
- Pain - felt along the joint line where the meniscus is located or may be more vague and involve the whole knee.
- Locking (inability to completely straighten the knee) may occur.
- Long-term: The constant rubbing of the torn meniscus on the cartilage may cause wear and tear on the surface, leading to degeneration of the joint. The knee may swell with use and become stiff and tight.
What you can do
- Apply RICE to the injured knee if there is swelling: rest - slows down bleeding and reduces the risk of further damage; Ice - eases pain, reduces swelling, reduces bleeding initially; compression - reduces bleeding and swelling; elevation - reduces bleeding and swelling by allowing fluids to flow away from the site of injury.
- Improve the strength of the muscles around the knee.
- See a sports injury therapist or physiotherapist.
Health24, October 2003