Watching Chicago Bull Derrick Rose running, pivoting and jumping on the basketball court it is easy to understand why his knees are constantly at risk for both the meniscus tears he suffered in 2013 and 2015 and the ACL tear he endured in 2012. Truth is, these unfortunately common injuries, can target everyone from weekend warriors to teenagers to the elderly for a variety of reasons. It is estimated that more than 200,000 cases of ACL injury and more than 500,000 meniscus tears occur in the United States! Why?
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, “the knee is the largest joint in the body and one of the most easily injured.” Our knees are crucial for moving backward, forward, and side-to-side. They also are weight-bearing joints and it is estimated every one pound of excess weight exerts about four pounds of pressure on our knees.
Each one of our knees contains two menisci, which act as shock absorbers for all of our weight and movements. The meniscus are actual crescent or C-shaped pieces of cartilage. In fact the word meniscus comes from the Greek word for crescent.
These two shock absorbers in each knee are located between the bottom of the thighbone (femur), and the top of the shin bone (tibia). One is called the lateral meniscus and is located toward the outside of your knee and the other is the medial meniscus located toward the middle of your body.
Treatment for a torn meniscus can range from a conservative non-surgical approach of rest, ice and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) to surgery involving repair or removal of a portion of the meniscus. Which option is right for an individual depends on many factors including age, activity level, degree and location of the meniscal tear. This type of decision is usually made in consult with a skilled, experienced orthopedic surgeon and with the benefit of a full examination frequently including an MRI, an advanced imaging process that shows not only bones but also the meniscus, cartilage, tendons, ligaments’ muscles and soft tissue. In Derrick Rose’s case, a young and incredibly active athlete, he chose a surgical approach called a menisectomy to repair his medial meniscus tear in his right knee. The procedure was performed by well-known surgeon, Dr. Brian Cole, the Bulls team physician and Section Head of the Cartilage Research and Restoration Center at Rush University Medical Center. It is hoped that Derrick will be back playing in as little as six weeks.
ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries can also be treated conservatively or surgically. The ACL is one of four ligaments that hold the bones of the knees together and allows and controls the knee’s ability to move forward, backward and side to side. The decision for treatment again depends on many factors including age, activity level and the degree of the tear, partial or complete. Repair can be done by grafting from the patients own patellar, hamstring or quadriceps tendons (autografts) or by using tendons from a cadaver (allografts). Once again these are complicated decisions made best in consultation with an experienced and skilled surgeon with the benefit of an examination and MRI. In Derrick Rose’s case, a patella tendon graft was selected to repair his ACL tear.