Jeremy Lin, star point guard for the New York Knicks basketball team, is out for the rest of the season after tearing the meniscus
in his left knee. The meniscus is one of those body parts that you're probably barely aware exists unless you work in health care or have had a knee injury yourself. It's a type of cartilage
that provides cushioning between the bones of the knee. If you poke at the tip of your nose, that's what cartilage is like--firm but malleable, and also, unfortunately, prone to injury. Some have surmised that the knee meniscus is the most vulnerable part of the body
. There are two ways that the meniscus is most commonly injured--an unnatural bend or twist of the knee during an activity, or the slow wear and tear caused by stressing the knee in the same way repeatedly. Athletes are certainly at a higher risk for this injury, but so are carpenters and plungers.
Some meniscus tears
, particularly if they're caused by normal wear and tear and are around the edge of the knee, can be treated with physical therapy or strengthening exercises, but surgery is the most common treatment for more dramatic tears. There are two surgical options. The first is to suture the tear
. If it's around the edge of the knee, it can heal with enough time, but tears near the center of the meniscus can never heal, even if sutured. The other option is to remove the torn part of the knee. This has more immediate short-term results, with patients able to walk shortly after the surgery. However, without the meniscus providing cushioning between their bones, the other knee cartilage and the bones will wear down more quickly resulting in more problems long-term. A meniscus transplant is an emerging option and will probably have better long-term results, but it is still in the beginning stages and needs more study.
Typical recovery time for knee surgery to treat a meniscus tear
is 3-4 months, but, as we've seen in the past, athletes tend to push themselves harder and get back on their injured joints quicker. The team expects him to be back on his feet and ready to play in 6 weeks. Unfortunately, that’s not quick enough to get him back in the game before the end of the season.