Meniscus tears common in golf
The cartilage acts as a shock absorber in the knee
he knee joint is made up of the femur (thigh bone)
above and the tibia and fibula (leg bones) below. In
between the femur and tibia are two discs of cartilage
called the medial meniscus and lateral meniscus.
The function of the meniscus is to protect the smooth,
almost frictionless cartilage at the end of the femur and
the upper part of the tibia. The meniscus acts as a shock
absorber and spreads force throughout the whole knee
and supports the ligaments of the knee for stability.
Meniscus tears are some of the most common injuries in
Meniscal tears can occur from many causes. The most
common is a twisting injury with the foot planted which
frequently occurs during the golf backswing. Poor golf
mechanics can lead to more tears because of poor foot
In contact sports, a blow to the side of the knee can cause
a ligament tear as well as a meniscal tear. In arthritic
knees, degenerative tears can occur, as the meniscal
tissue and cartilage of the joint are not as pliable and soft.
The symptoms of a meniscus tear include pain along
the joint line, swelling of the knee, pain in the back of the
knee, catching and locking or popping when attempting
to bend and straighten the knee. Some people will experience an inability to fully straighten the knee or feel pain
going down the lower leg.
If a tear has been present for a long time, some of the
symptoms will periodically appear and disappear de-
pending on activities. Sometimes the muscles of the
thigh will atrophy over time due to less use of the affected leg.
Diagnosis of a meniscal tear is made by a clinical visit
with a physician where a history of events, physical exam
of the affected knee, X-rays and commonly an MRI are ordered. Once the diagnosis is made, there are treatment
options. If the tear is small and not significantly affecting
quality of life, then ice and anti-inflammatory medications
such as ibuprofen can be effective. Physical therapy to restore range of motion and strengthen the quadriceps and
hamstring muscles can alleviate the symptoms of a
meniscus tear. Cortisone shots may act as a quick treatment to diminish pain in the knee. However, a cortisone
shot only acts to mask the pain from a meniscus tear
rather than facilitating healing, and they are not recommended in the younger population.
Unfortunately, the majority of meniscus tears do not
heal on their own. If symptoms persist, arthroscopic surgery to remove the torn part of the meniscus is recommended. The goal of this procedure is to remove the
smallest portion of meniscus possible so that the painful
symptoms will not return, but still keep as much function-ing meniscus intact to protect the knee. On average,
most golfers can return to normal activities in two to six
weeks after an arthroscopic procedure on the meniscus.
Prevention is important to any athlete. To help a golfer
prevent a meniscus tear, proper swing and stance should
be sought. Strengthening the quadriceps and hamstrings
will aid in protecting the knee and flexibility of the joint
will also prevent undue force on the meniscus during a
Hydration and fitness are key and will help any golfer
keep the ball in the short stuff.
Dr. Bindu Bamrah is an orthopedic surgeon with the Orthopedic
Institute of Wisconsin.