Torn Meniscus

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Introduction to the knee

The knee is the largest joint in the body. The knee allows the leg to bend where the femur (thighbone) attaches to the tibia (shinbone). The knee flexes and extends, allowing the body to perform many activities, from walking and running to climbing and squatting. There are a variety of structures that surround the knee and allow it to bend and that protect the knee joint from injury.

The quadriceps and hamstring muscles are responsible for moving the knee joint. When the quadriceps muscles (located on the front the thigh) contract, the knee extends or straightens. The hamstring muscles, located on the back of the thigh, are responsible for flexing or bending the knee. These muscles are also important in protecting the knee from being injured by acting to stabilize the knee and preventing it from being pushed in directions that it isn't meant to go.

There are four ligaments that stabilize the knee joint at rest and during movement: the medical and lateral collateral ligaments (MCL, LCL) and the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments (ACL, PCL).

Cartilage within the joint provides the cushioning to protect the bones from the routine stresses of walking, running, and climbing. The medial and lateral meniscus are two thicker wedge-shaped pads of cartilage attached to top of the tibia (shin bone), called the tibial plateau. Each meniscus is curved in a C-shape, with the front part of the cartilage called the anterior horn and the back part called the posterior horn.

There is also articular cartilage that lines the joint surfaces of the bones within the knee, including the tibia, femur, and kneecap (patella). The terminology torn knee cartilage refers to damage to one of the C-shaped menisci of the knee between the femur and tibia.

As with any injury in the body, when the meniscus is damaged, irritation occurs. If the surface that allows the bones to glide over each other in the knee joint is no longer smooth, pain can occur with each flexion or extension. The meniscus can be damaged because of a single event or it can gradually wear out because of age and overuse. Continue Reading

Reviewed on 4/19/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Dutton, M. Dutton's Orthopedic Examination, Evaluation and Intervention, 3rd edition. McGraw Hill Medical, 2012.

Johnson, D.H., and D.A. Pedowitz. Practical Orthopedic Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007.

IMAGES:

1.MedicineNet

2.iStock

3.BigStock, iStock

4.N/A

5.Veer

6.BigStock

7.Getty Images/PhotoAlto, iStock

8.BigStock

9.Bigstock

10.Getty Images

11.MedicineNet

12.iStock

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Newsletters

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Torn Meniscus - Symptoms

    What symptoms did you experience with a torn meniscus?

    Post View 74 Comments
  • Torn Meniscus - Treatment

    What treatment was effective for your torn meniscus?

    Post View 10 Comments
  • Torn Meniscus - Surgery To Repair

    Please describe your experience with surgery to repair your torn meniscus.

    Post View 33 Comments

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors