If you paid attention in Chemistry class (I tried, honestly), you probably remember measuring liquids in a test tube or beaker. Then, the teacher would say something about the bubble at the top of the liquid being the meniscus. I don’t know why they made it so hard. Essentially, a meniscus is just a curved surface.
More likely, you have heard the term connected to sports injuries, as in “did you hear LeBron’s son tore his meniscus?”
So, you ask, what the heck does science class in high school have to do with basketball? And personal injury law?
Read on to find out.
Your knees contain the lateral meniscus, on the outside of each knee, and the medial meniscus, on the inner portion of the joint. The job of the meniscus is to cushion the joint and run interference between the upper leg bone (femur) and the lower leg bone (tibia). It prevents bone-on-bone wear and tear and protects against arthritis.
Meniscus injuries are common. Typically, they are caused by sudden twisting, bending, or less commonly, from repetitive motions.
Thus, meniscus injuries can occur in workplace settings, slip and falls, motor vehicle crashes, as well as sports activities.
Since I recently underwent my second meniscus surgery on my knee, I can assure you some of us tear ours just fine without any sudden twisting. Repetitive use works well for me.
Typical symptoms of a meniscus tear are swelling, pain moving the joint, and clicking or locking of the joint.
Often, a meniscus can be injured concurrently with surrounding soft tissues, such as the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL), or in rarer cases, the Posterior Collateral Ligament (PCL), or Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL). Many doctors refer to a tear of the ACL, MCL, and medial meniscus as the “holy trinity,” although there is nothing particularly heavenly about this significant injury.
Diagnosis can be made by a physical exam but is more often confirmed with an MRI test to pinpoint the location and severity of the tear.
Treatment used to be surgically focused, but increasingly is more in line with rehabilitation and therapy.
Surgical repair of the meniscus is often only attempted in very young people or professional athletes. In this type of surgery, the surgeon actually sews together the tear to reintegrate the meniscus. The healing process is very long (months of little or no activity) followed by an aggressive and lengthy therapy period (to regain movement and strength).
Meniscectomy is the more frequently chosen surgical technique. During a meniscectomy, the surgeon removes the torn or frayed portion of the meniscus and sews and smooths it down so that the joint will operate smoothly. Following a brief period of limited activity, physical therapy is prescribed to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee, regain flexibility and range of motion, and reduce swelling. Usually, within about a month, the patient is close to her pre-surgery state.
The newest trend is to not perform surgery on meniscus tears at all, opting for physical therapy instead. Often, with strengthening and movement, as well as other modalities, much of the pain can be alleviated, and many people are able to participate in most of their pre-injury activities.
If you think you have injured your meniscus in a car crash (oftentimes, with your foot planted on the brake pedal and twisting due to the crash mechanism), in a work incident (a slip and fall, a twist while bending), or in a slip and fall at a store or parking lot, you should immediately report these symptoms to a doctor, emergency room, and/or your employer.
Get treated as soon as possible to document the injury and where you believe it occurred. Don’t wait!
Then, your next step is to get in touch with a personal injury or workers’ compensation lawyer.
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you injure your knee immediately get medical treatment, report the incident to the appropriate places, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as personal injury or workers’ compensation.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.