When you’re an athlete or live an active life, you’re at risk for a meniscus tear. These C-shaped cartilage discs absorb shocks in your knee joint and are easily torn. How easy is it? About 14% of women, men, and kids in the United States have torn their meniscus.
Although anyone can tear their meniscus at any age, it’s more likely if you play sports that put a great deal of pressure on your knees, such as those that require running, jumping, or stopping short. You’re also more likely to develop a meniscus tear as you age and your meniscus degrades.
David Lintner, MD, is sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon at Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, with clinics in Baytown and Houston, Texas. Although Dr. Lintner performs meniscus repair to get you back on your feet and back in the game, preventing a meniscus tear is easier than repairing it. Here’s how to do that.
Take the stress off your knee
Every step you take puts 1.5 times your bodyweight of stress on each knee joint. If you’re overweight or extremely muscular, you could be putting up three times your body weight on your knees when walking.
Add in high-velocity moves, such as running, jumping, twisting, or dancing, and the stress increases. If you’re overweight, then losing those extra pounds literally takes the weight off your menisci, too.
If you’re not overweight, then the best way to take stress off your knee joint is to build up the muscles that support them. Work with your trainer or a sports medicine specialist to ensure that you distribute your weight evenly and well when you run, jump, or stop short.
Warm-up and cool down
Your muscles need time to get ready for the stressful actions you put them through when you play sports. They also need time to recover. The same goes for your meniscus.
Warm up with stretches and light movements to increase blood flow to your knee joint, including the meniscus. Only the outer portion of your meniscus has a blood supply. That’s why it’s essential to be extra protective of this cartilage. For example, inner portions of the meniscus won’t heal after an injury and might need to be trimmed away.
Avoid twisting your knee
In the heat of the game, you may inadvertently step or land wrong, twisting your knee and tearing your meniscus. Before you encounter a painful situation like that, work with our team who can evaluate the efficiency of your movements and help you make adjustments.
We evaluate your posture as well as your weight distribution. We may also make recommendations about how you move while playing your sport to reduce the risk of meniscus tears and other injuries. Soon, your new movements will be second nature, even during the game.
Nourish your knee
Fresh vegetables, fruits, high-quality fats, and healthy proteins feed your cells, give you energy, and keep your tissues (including your menisci) healthy and strong. Shop in the perimeters of grocery stores to find fresh produce, meats, poultry, and fish.
Avoid sugars, simple carbohydrates, and trans fats. Junk and processed foods rob your cells of energy and trigger inflammation throughout your body.
If you smoke, you should stop. Cigarette smoke is dehydrating — that’s why smokers often have dry, wrinkled skin. That happens inside your body, too. To keep your menisci plump and strong, stub out that cigarette.
If your athletic career is behind you, be sure you replace it with plenty of fun exercise and other activities that keep you on your feet and maintain joint movement. Your body needs to move to stay healthy, and that includes your knee joints. If you’ve been out of your sport for a while due to aging or injury, we custom-design an exercise or rehab program for you.
If you tear your meniscus or experience knee pain, contact us right away. Some tears respond well to rest, icing, compression, and elevation (RICE) alone. Others may require interventions, such as meniscus repair surgery.
To protect your meniscus with a sports evaluation or to treat knee pain or a meniscus tear, schedule an appointment today by phone or online form at our office nearest you.
Special message: Even if you live far from Houston, if you have knee pain or a meniscus tear, consider sending your MRI on a DVD to Dr. Lintner, along with a summary of your injury and symptoms for a second opinion. If appropriate, we can schedule a video visit, review your MRI, and discuss whether surgery is appropriate. Many of our patients come from far away for their surgery, then rehab closer to home with close follow up by Dr. Lintner via telemedicine!