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Meniscus tears are among the most common injuries encountered by athletes. With advancements in medicine, this injury is no longer a declaration that your playing days are over.
Orthopedic surgeon Kevin R. Stone, MD, of The Stone Clinic in San Francisco, has developed a new procedure for repairing meniscus tears in the knee. We spent a few moments with Dr. Stone to find out everything we could about the meniscus and how his new procedure can help athletes come back better than ever.
STACK: What’s the role of the meniscus?
Dr. Stone: The meniscus is the fibrous shock absorber inside the knee joint.
STACK: How can an athlete tear his or her meniscus?
DS: Athletes tear the meniscus in the U.S. about 1.4 million times a year. It occurs most commonly from a flexion or rotation maneuver. It can happen [when] an athlete on a football field [is] pivoting and twisting, and it can also occur simply by getting out of a car or from standing up from a chair.
STACK: What are some common symptoms associated with a meniscus tear?
DS: After tearing the meniscus cartilage, the most common complaints are popping, catching, locking, pain and swelling.
STACK: Can you conceivably tear your meniscus and not feel it?
DS: Yes. Many times, particularly as people age, tears in the meniscus can occur and be relatively asymptomatic. Usually it’s not diagnosed until the person tears it some more or there’s another injury to the knee.
STACK: How can athletes protect themselves from a tear?
DS: There is no guaranteed way of protecting against a meniscus tear. However, knee injuries often occur due to mental errors when someone is not paying attention, or thinking about something else and not using good mechanics or technique.
STACK: Can you explain your new meniscus procedure?
DS: What we’re able to do now is reconstruct the meniscus by providing a collagen scaffold to the missing defect, or large tear.
We can cause the meniscus to re-grow through that scaffold and restore the shape of the meniscus cartilage. The new technique permits an increase in the number of meniscus cartilages that can be repaired. It permits re-growth of missing segments of the meniscus cartilage and possibly permits restoration of the normal joint mechanics.
STACK: How does this new procedure differ from the past?
DS: Often in the past when a complex tear of the meniscus cartilage occurred, there wasn’t enough tissue or good enough quality tissue to repair. By providing tissue for the missing defect, you can bridge the gap and therefore restore the tissue that has been missing and restore the mechanics of the tissue. In the past, we had no device and no tissue to do that with when the meniscus was severely torn.
STACK: Explain the recovery process.
DS: The recovery process after a collagen meniscus implant is the same as a meniscus repair, in that we protect the joint for a month while the tissue healing occurs. Over the course of the next two to three months, we increase strengthening and exercises to permit maturation of the repair.
STACK: Are you the only person who performs this procedure?
DS: The device has now been released so that surgeons around the world can use it.
For more information about Dr. Stone, the Stone Clinic and the new collagen meniscus implant, visit his website.