Meniscus tears are most commonly sustained when the knee is bent and then twisted, as in planting the foot and pivoting to shoot, pass, or change direction with running while playing lacrosse. There are different classifications of meniscus tears based on how the tear looks on MRI. The location of the meniscus tear, once diagnosed, normally dictates whether surgery is required and what surgery will be performed. If the tear is in an area of good blood supply, the body will normally heal on its own. If not, surgery will be required to decrease pain levels and return the athlete to sport.
There are two surgical approaches to meniscus tears: menisectomy and meniscus repair. A menisectomy removes the torn meniscus and recovery is quick, about 6-8 weeks. A meniscus repair involves repairing the tear with stitches. Recovery time is longer, about 4-5 months, as there are surgical precautions postoperatively, with knee flexion range of motion limiting to 45-90 degrees. Physical therapy is similar whether the athlete has or hasn’t had surgery: to decrease pain and inflammation, improve range of motion, strength, flexibility and progress back to sport.