Why it’s important to save the meniscus in an injured knee during sport activities

UAE: 5th February, 2019: The meniscus is a piece of cartilage in the knee that cushions and stabilizes the joint and protects the bones from wear and tear. But all it takes is a good twist of the knee to tear the meniscus. The symptoms of a meniscus tear can include a sharp pain in the knee, swelling, a popping sensation, difficulty bending and straightening the leg and in some cases, a piece of the shredded cartilage breaks loose and catches in the knee joint, causing it to get “stuck” or “lock up”.

Dr. Nader Darwich, Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon Specialized in Knee & Sports at Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery, Dubai says, “It is crucial to save an important component such as the meniscus in an injured knee instead of just removing it as repairing it can give more life to the knee. Extremely significant for the function and survival of the knee, when a meniscus is torn or moderately damaged a lot of people choose to remove the damaged part but we repair it.”

He further added, “The meniscus acts as a shock absorber and plays a vital role in the stability, lubrication and position of the knee. By removing the meniscus there will be a wear and tear of the cartilage that leads to osteoarthritis of the knee. Not many institutions do this and just shave the meniscus and remove it. Therefore, it is vital for us to change our attitude to preserve the meniscus for the future of the knee and bring about awareness on the Importance of its function and not sacrifice it.”

Meniscus tears are common especially in young people who do a lot of aggressive sports like football, volleyball and soccer. They can happen when a person changes direction suddenly while running, and often occur at the same time as other knee injuries, like an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Meniscus tears are a special risk for older athletes since the meniscus weakens with age. More than 40% of people 65 or older have them. 85% to 90% of people who get the surgery for a meniscus tear, the short-term results are excellent. But in the long-term, people who have a large meniscal injury that is unrepairable may be at a higher risk of developing knee arthritis

Um Saif aged 22 – an Emirati patient of Dr. Nader had torn his lateral meniscus 4 years ago while playing football. It was identified as a bucket handle tear, the worst case of a meniscus. He said, “I went to 4 doctors who told me there was nothing wrong but Dr. Nader took up the case immediately. My knee was jammed, it would lock and unlock. I would go to the shopping mall for a walk and leave in a wheel chair. After surgery, I recovered fully with the help of physiotherapy within year and today I can play sports.” He added, “My experience with Dr. Nader was the best as he immediately knew the issue.”

Rashid Butti Al Qubasi, an Emirati UAE Representative International Champion Endurance runner who also became the first Emirati athlete to represent his nation in a combative sport at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing said, “I was experiencing excruciating pain in my knees. Dr. Nader was very familiar with my condition. I had a Knee Surgery ACL Reconstruction. After 2 months I was back to field and was the first Arab and GCC national to ever win the XDubai Spartan Race which was held for the first time in Bahrain on April 1, 2016 at age 41. This was the most amazing moment in the history of the UAE and the Arab sporting world. Like me, Dr. Nader has operated many other players in the UAE national team. Today I am also a coach for the Abu Dhabi police team. I had a speedy recovery, because I followed Dr. Nader’s schedule and instructions that helped me heal quickly.”

Meniscus tears are tough to prevent since they’re usually the result of an accident. But some precautions might lower the risks of a knee injury such as:

  • Keep your thigh muscles strong with regular exercises.
  • Warm up with light activities before taking part
  • Give your body time to rest between workouts. Fatigued muscles can increase your risk of injury.
  • Make sure your shoes have enough support and fit correctly.
  • Maintain flexibility.
  • Never abruptly increase the intensity of your workout. Make changes slowly.

To diagnose a meniscus tear, a doctor will give you a thorough exam and want to hear details about how you got your injury. X-rays may be necessary, to rule out broken bones and other problems. You may also need an MRI scan, which allows a more detailed evaluation of the knee cartilage. Treatment for meniscal tears depends on the size and location of the tear. Other factors which influence treatment include age, activity level and related injuries. Happily, not all meniscal tears require surgery. If your knee is not locking up, is stable, and symptoms resolve, nonsurgical treatments can be performed.

If a tear is large, unstable, or causing locking symptoms surgery may be required and you can often go home the same day. You may need a brace afterward for protection if a repair is performed. Full recovery from surgery may take 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the type of procedure performed as well as other factors.

About Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery, Dubai

Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery (BHAS), Dubai has three operation theaters with quality services offered in Joint Replacement surgery, Spine Surgery, Pediatric Orthopedics, Hand Surgery, Sports Medicine and Interventional Pain Management for complicated chronic pain. Patients benefit from a team of highly specialized consultants, many of whom are nationally and internationally recognized for their expertise and experience. The team offers medical and surgical care of the highest standards using the most up to date procedures which include the latest non-surgical and minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques to speed up recovery, manage pain, and treat sports injuries and all orthopedic conditions.