Meniscus Tears

Meniscus Tears

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When your child tears the shock absorber (meniscus) in a knee, we can help. We provide the full range of possible treatments, with a focus on providing the most effective but least invasive option possible.

Some tears may only require braces, medication or rehab with our in-house physical therapists. But if surgery is needed, our surgeons offer a minimally invasive arthroscopic approach. They also have expertise treating related knee injuries such as:

  • ACL injury
  • Articular cartilage injury 

Meniscus tears usually occur during sports in which the knee twists or rotates suddenly, like football. But our expert team will provide the needed care and help your child heal.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Meniscus Tears

The meniscus is a thin, soft piece of cartilage that’s shaped like a wedge and located between your thighbone, kneecap and shinbone. Young athletes who participate in contact sports like football are at an increased risk of meniscus tears.

Signs and symptoms of a tear depend on its severity. Minor tears may cause only minimal pain and swelling for a few weeks after the injury. For children with acute pain and discomfort, symptoms may include:

  • “Pop” in the knee joint
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Knee pain, especially when twisting or squatting
  • Limited range of motion
  • Discomfort walking

Feeling as if the knee is giving out, “locking” or “catching”

Tests and Diagnosis

Diagnosing Meniscus Tears

Often, our physicians can diagnose a meniscus tear with a physical exam. They will also order an imaging scan such as an X-ray or MRI to examine the bones, tendons, ligaments and tissues for damage.  

Your child’s physical evaluation may include:

  • Comparison of the injured and non-injured knees
  • Tests to stress the knee and identify weak and possibly injured ligaments

Diagnostic testing may include:

  • X-ray: Uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to take detailed images of the bones of the knee, checking for any problems with the knee bones

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan: Uses magnetic fields and radiowaves to take detailed pictures of the knee joint, checking for tears in the ligaments and tendons

Treatments

Treating Meniscus Tears

At the Andrews Institute, our team of orthopedic specialists designs treatment plans using the least invasive options possible. Whenever possible, our physicians first suggest non-surgical treatment for a torn meniscus.

Non-surgical treatment options include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Activity modification
  • Immobilization with a brace
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation

If symptoms continue to worsen, we may recommend minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery.

During the procedure, your child’s physician inserts an arthroscope (a thin, lighted tube with a small camera attached) through tiny incisions in the knee, along with special instruments. The physician can visualize, evaluate and treat the problem during the same visit. (Learn more about arthroscopy.)

Resources

Meniscus Tears Resources

Learn more about meniscus tears in children:

KidsHealth®: Meniscus tears

FAQs

Meniscus Tears FAQs

How can meniscus tears be prevented?

Most meniscus tears are hard to prevent. However, there are ways you can help your child reduce the risk of a serious tear. For sports, make sure your child does regular strength training to build up leg muscle strength. Learning proper form and technique is also important to preventing injury.

My child has a torn meniscus, so are sports still possible?

It depends on the severity of the tear. We recommend making an appointment with a pediatric orthopedic physician to assess your child’s injury. If the tear is minor, we advise physical therapy and rehab to strengthen the surrounding muscles. If the tear is serious, we may suggest arthroscopic surgery followed by rehab. Your physician and therapist work together to plan for you child’s return to daily activities such as sports.

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