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Why do so many middle-aged adults suffer a torn meniscus?

Mercy finds it's the top injury among its patients
Posted at 2:41 PM, Jul 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-10 17:29:28-04

CINCINNATI -- Cathy Cann is working to get her knee back to normal.

It completely gave out earlier this year. She goes to physical therapy three times a week.

Cann had what Mercy Health calls the No. 1 injury for her 45-54 age group: a tear of the medial meniscus. The meniscus are cartilage pads on the inside and outside of the knees.

Mercy, Ohio's largest health care provider, ran the numbers for its patients to find that result.

And it surprised Dr. Nicholas Early, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and arthroscopic surgery. He was Cann's doctor.

"You would expect sprain or strain to be more common," he said.

That's the case for people in their late teens through early adulthood: Mercy found sprains and strains dominated the top 10 injuries in those age groups.

In the 55-64 age group, Mercy Health found meniscus and back problems dominate. Shoulder issues are tops for patients ages 65-74.

Increased activity and people playing sports longer may be a reason so many people in Cann's age group have torn meniscus diagnoses, Early said. Two keys to prevention: Warm up before activity and keep your weight down.

No case is the same, but in Cann's case, doctors decided surgery was the best intervention.

"If you're able to repair it and the patient is able to heal it, it can slow down degeneration changes significantly and really benefit them," Early said.

Signs of a meniscus issue include:

  • pain on the inside or outside of the nee;
  • clicking, catching, popping or locking; or
  • the knee just giving out.

Cann said her injury was debilitating.

"I couldn't step on it," she said.

Almost a half-year removed from surgery, her slight scars are fading. She's determined to get her normal function back, and she's well on her way there.

"I think the biggest thing is do what they tell you to do and put the work in that they ask you to put in," Cann said.