by Denise Müller, Grad. Sports Scientist
There are two menisci located in a human knee joint. The medial meniscus and the lateral meniscus. These halfmoon-shaped pieces of cartilage are located between the femur and tibia, and have very important tasks to fulfil in the knee joint. They act as shock absorbers and distribute pressure.
They also mould themselves to the differing structures of the bone ends of the tibia and femur at their meeting point. This acts as a protective layer and protects the knee joint from wear.
There are a number of knee injuries in which a damaged meniscus plays an important role. It is mostly athletes that suffer meniscus injuries. Most of these injuries are due to severe stress on the knee joint or caused by an accident or trauma. People whose profession has them frequently on their knees, e.g. tilers, are often return “customers” of sports medicine specialists.
Some of the sports disciplines with particularly high stresses in the region of the knee joint are football, skiing, snowboarding, tennis, squash, but also handball, basketball, and some athletics disciplines.
A meniscus injury will usually occur as a result of
- a quick twisting motion – i.e. a rotary movement of the tibia against the femur in a longitudinal direction.
- a fast bending or stretching motion in lateral direction.
The danger here is that the free rim of the meniscus is displaced into the joints, which may result in partial or complete tearing of the meniscus (bucket handle tear). These unfettered parts will continuously irritate the knee joint capsule, which can then result in swelling, heating, or a knee joint effusion.
A visit to the doctor will be necessary.