Torn meniscus definition
A torn meniscus is a commonly occurring injury of the knee. It happens when the knee is severely rotated or twisted and is most likely to occur when the knee is twisted or rotated while it is bearing the body’s weight.
What is a meniscus?
The knee consists of the large bone of the upper leg (the femur) and the shin bone (the tibia), which are bound together by ligaments, and the knee cap (the patella). The patella is found in a group of muscles in the front part of the joint, called the quadriceps.
There are two pads lying between and on either side of the tibia and the femur. One on the inner or medial side of the knee and one on the outside or lateral side of the knee. These are called menisci. One “menisci” is known as a “meniscus.”
Each meniscus is made up of fibrous, cartilage-like material. It is rubbery, but it also contains collagen fibers so it can hold its shape. The vessels that supply blood to the menisci only come to enter the area where they are attached on the outside, so a significant portion of a meniscus is not supplied with blood. This means that if a meniscus tear occurs, it has a challenging time healing due to the lack of blood supply.
The job of the meniscus is to make the tibia and femur fit together more securely, to provide lubrication for movement, to act as a shock absorber, and evenly distribute load across the knee. A meniscus tear can be caused by gradual wear and tear (it degenerates or wears out due to use), or a meniscus tear can occur due to trauma (injury).
Meniscus tears occur very frequently. In the United States, the prevalence of acute meniscus tears is approximately 60 injuries per every 100,000 individuals.
Meniscus tears occur more often in men, at a ratio of about 2.5:1. In addition, a torn meniscus is most likely to happen in men in their 30’s, but females are most likely to suffer from a meniscus tear when they are between the ages of 11 and 20 years old.
In people over the age of 65, the torn meniscus is more likely due to degeneration, occurring at a rate of 60%.
Causes of a torn meniscus
Meniscus tears can happen during activities that result in a direct blow or from pressure due to a forced rotation or twisting of the knee. For example, a quick turn or a pivot, heavy lifting, or deep squatting can cause a torn meniscus.
Torn meniscus risks
Athletes are at increased risk for a torn meniscus. Activities that involve sudden stops and turning, like tennis, basketball, soccer, and football, can increase the risk for a torn meniscus.
Many body structures degenerate or weaken as the body ages, and meniscus tears more frequently occur in individuals older than 30 years.
If a person has weakened menisci, simple movements like stepping or squatting down can lead to a knee injury. In addition, osteoarthritis, a common degenerative disorder in the joints which causes pain and stiffness, increases the risk for the torn meniscus.
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