Among the most common sports injuries is a torn meniscus. The meniscus is a soft, flexible piece of cartilage within your knee and is essential for shock absorption. A torn meniscus is a painful injury, but can sometimes heal on its own. Learn more about the injury here, as well as treatment and recovery methods. 

What is a Torn Meniscus? 

Causes & Symptoms

Forceful knee twists or rotations that occur while the foot remains planted on the ground can tear the meniscus, or the cartilage that cushions the ends of the knee bones. This often occurs during sudden turns, stops, and pivots, making meniscus tears a common sports injury. The cartilage can also tear because of arthritis or age-related cartilage wear. Actions as simple as walking on uneven surfaces can cause meniscus injuries in such cases. 

sports injuries

Common symptoms include pain, swelling, and stiffness, particularly when you hold your knee in a straight position or try to rotate it. The affected knee might feel unstable, weak, and like it's “locked” in the same position. Damaged cartilage can also cause the knee joints to make clicking or locking sounds. 

What Happens During Arthroscopy?

Some torn meniscus injuries can be resolved with treatment at home, which should include keeping weight off of the injured knee, and using ice packs and compression bandages to reduce swelling. Wearing a brace to stabilize the knee and engaging in physical therapy can help as well. 

If the tear is significant or the pain and swelling worsen, knee arthroscopy is usually the next step. The procedure is minimally-invasive and involves inserting a tiny camera through an incision in the knee. The camera identifies damaged tissue and allows the surgeon to stitch the tissue back together using specialized small tools. The doctor can also use tiny tools to remove inflamed tissue. Once the procedure is over, the surgeon closes the incision with stitches or bandages, then dresses the site to protect it from infection. 

Recovery Tips

In addition to staying off of the affected knee and taking steps to reduce pain and swelling, recovery requires avoiding any strenuous activities, such as jumping or running. It typically takes a few months to fully recover from knee surgery, which includes physical therapy to restore range of motion and strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint. If the site bleeds or indicates any sign of infection, including fever or pus, see your doctor immediately for treatment. 


If you suspect you may have a torn meniscus or other sports injury, be sure to seek treatment from Peter A. Matsuua, MD, in Hilo, HI. This orthopedic surgeon provides a wide variety of services for patients of all ages, offering both innovative surgical and nonsurgical treatments. Call (808) 969-3331 today to make an appointment or visit the website for more about sports injury services.