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Small Changes In The Menisci Can Affect Knee Performance

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A meniscus tear is a common injury in many sports. The menisci – two C-shaped pads of tissue between the major bones of the knee – act like shock absorbers, helping to disperse pressure and reduce friction in the joint. If you tear a meniscus, your knee will swell and become painful.

New US research shows that even small changes in the menisci can hinder their ability to perform critical knee functions. According to the University of Missouri, the study could lead to new approaches to preventing and treating meniscal injuries as well as clues to understanding osteoarthritis.

The research was conducted at a gait lab that uses a variety of sensors to evaluate how people walk and move. Using computational models that combine gait measurements with medical images, the researchers can predict how much force is exerted on the knee´s cartilage, ligaments and menisci during a particular movement.

“The menisci are sensitive, and a fine line exists between the menisci doing what they´re supposed to do and the menisci not functioning properly,” explained Trent Guess, associate professor of physical therapy at the University of Missouri. “As the meniscal attachments to the tibia – the calf bone – become more lax, it doesn´t take much for the menisci to lose all their function. This function declines as individuals age and could be one contributing factor to osteoarthritis.”

Guess highlighted the fact that, in the past, the importance of the menisci was not understood.

“Now, we realise their importance for all aspects of knee function and preventing osteoarthritis. Surgeons might not have bothered to fix meniscal tears in the past, but our research suggests repairing these injuries might be worthwhile because, if left untreated, damage to the menisci could contribute to osteoarthritis in the near future,” he concluded.