A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Repair or remove? Dealing with meniscus tears

Basketball player dribbling ball - Meniscus repair vs. removal

Meniscus injuries are common in sports like basketball, which involve quick changes in direction.

Athletes and weekend warriors alike know the knee is a common candidate for injury. The meniscus, a piece of cartilage, which acts as a shock absorber in the knee, is a frequent area for knee injuries to occur.

“The meniscus absorbs pressure when the knee is bent by jumping, running and walking,” said Christopher Orgeman, a licensed athletic trainer with Marshfield Clinic.

Meniscus tears are most common in sports that involve quick changes in direction, like soccer, basketball and football, Orgeman said. Orgeman sees meniscus tears less often in sports that involve straight-line running, like track and baseball.

Compared to ACL injuries, which are usually season-ending for athletes, meniscus tears have shorter recovery times that vary depending on their severity. The best course of action may be to repair the meniscus, while other times doctors remove it entirely.

“Sometimes it can’t be repaired,” Orgeman said. A repaired meniscus takes about six months of rehab, while removal may have you ready to resume activity in four to six weeks.

Why repair rather than remove?

While removing the meniscus leads to quicker rehab from injury, repairing the meniscus is the ideal long-term option.

“In the long term you’d like to have the meniscus repaired because then you’re not losing it,” Orgeman said. “It doesn’t grow back.”

Removing the meniscus makes you more likely to develop arthritis in the knee over time. A removed meniscus also can equal a shorter career for athletes.

If you’re experiencing knee pain, or think you may have suffered a meniscus injury, make an appointment with a provider today.

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