Meniscus Injuries in Female Athletes
You may have been told by your sportsmedicine doc that you have a meniscus tear. The good thing about this particular injury is that you may be able to heal up completely without undergoing surgery. And if you do need surgery, we can get you back to full strength eventually.
So let's talk about meniscus injuries. Remember, this is more general information, so visit your sports medicine specialist to find out about your specific case if you have suffered a meniscus injury.
What is the Meniscus?
When you walk or run, you are actually placing two to eight times your body weight on the knee joint. It is the job of the meniscus to absorb this weight and distribute it evenly throughout the joint.
In some ways, this injury has a "wear-and-tear" component to it. As we age, our menisci lose water and elasticity. As a result, younger people have tough menisci, and usually injure them in a "twisting injury." The bottom line: the older you are, the easier it is to tear the menisci.
How Do We Treat A Meniscus Injury?
There are a few ways doctors administer meniscus injury treatment. Sometimes, a nonsurgical meniscus injury treatment is best, which generally involves eliminating swelling and discomfort.
Patients are told to rest—staying off of the injured knee—then anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or Tylenol can decrease pain and swelling.
Some patients need only this noninvasive meniscus injury treatment. They may have to use crutches until they can walk without a limp and/or receive physical therapy.
What if I Need Surgery for My Meniscus Injury?
Often, however, meniscus injury treatment is required. Severe menisci injuries in which the knee locks up and cannot be straightened out require surgery as soon as possible to repair the damage and prevent further injury.
Usually, surgical treatment involves what we call arthroscopy.
With this procedure, the surgeon makes small incisions in the knee to insert the camera into the injured joint. One surgical option for meniscus injury treatment is a partial meniscectomy. During a partial meniscectomy, the surgeon removes the part of the meniscus that is damaged and cannot be repaired.
Meniscus Repair Options
Another surgical option is called a meniscal repair, in which the surgeon uses sutures to sew the edges of the meniscus back together.
Generally, meniscal repair is the preferred option for surgeons because it will allow more normal function of the knee and protect the articular cartilage than if part of the meniscus is removed altogether.
Meniscal repair is also more commonly used for younger patients whose menisci haven’t degenerated. If you are a young female athlete and you need surgery for your meniscus tear, it could be a good option.
A third option for surgical meniscus injury treatment is transplantation, in which part of another person’s meniscus replaces the removed meniscus. This treatment is still in the exploratory and experimental stage.
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