The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that acts like a shock absorber between your femur (thighbone) and tibia (shinbone). We have two menisci in each knee joint, which provide protection while carrying out physical activity such as running or playing football. They can be damaged or torn during activities that put pressure on or rotate the knee joint. Meniscus tears are one of the most commonly seen injuries in football.

What are Meniscus Tears?

Meniscus tears are nothing new in the world of top flight football. The injury occurs when the meniscus is ripped between the shin bone and thigh bone while making off-balance movements of the joints. The acute injury can cause a flap of cartilage-like tissue to protrude from the joint which repeatedly becomes trapped between the two bones. This can lead to the locking of the joint and, of course, agonising pain.

Due to the constant change in direction, pace and the ball control element of the sport, footballers are at constant risk to injuries such as these. Although players can typically be expected to return to training within around four weeks, this is by no means a certainty.

Treating meniscus tears

In most cases, meniscal tears do not require surgery. Non-surgical treatment, following the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate), should be sufficient in most instances of meniscus tears. NSAIDs may be prescribed to in order to reduce swelling and pain. Stretching and strengthening exercises may help to reduce stress on the knee. However, you should seek advice from your GP or physical therapist. It goes without saying that impact activities such as running should be avoided during recovery.

Sometimes surgery is required. If a tear is large, unstable or causing locking symptoms, surgery may be performed to either repair or remove unstable edges. This is generally a fairly straightforward procedure, often carried out on an outpatient basis. If the meniscal tear is repaired, it may be necessary to wear a protective brace.

The short-term prognosis for those who have meniscal surgery is good to excellent in 80-90% of cases. However, in the long-term, those who have a large, irreparable meniscal tears may face the risk of developing arthritis in the knee.


If you are experiencing recurring knee problems, make an appointment with one of our team of Osteopaths and Physiotherapists in our sports injury clinic. Appointments can be made online or by calling 020 8789 3881.