When the Most Common Knee Injury Strikes

Kimberly Kennedy wishes she had a great story to go with her injury.

But when she tore the meniscus in her knee, she wasn’t hiking a mountain. Nor was she cycling down a steep road. Or scaling a rock face.

She was unloading the dishwasher.

MOS patient, Kimberly Kennedy

The doting mother of three was reaching in the back for the last dish when she felt an unexpected and audible “pop” in her knee. It felt as if a rubber band had been shot through her knee and was left bouncing and flailing about.

While it was uncomfortable, she felt no pain. With a busy schedule and a family to care for, she continued going about her day.

As the day went on, her knee began to lock and unlock, restricting her mobility.

Busy schedule or not, Kimberly knew something was wrong.

Kimberly went to John Muir Hospital and was diagnosed with a meniscal tear in her knee.

The meniscus is a rubbery, C-shaped disc of living tissue that acts as a shock absorber (or a gasket) between the femur, or thigh bone, and the tibia, or lower leg bone. The meniscus helps distribute weight evenly between the femur and tibia.

Diagram of the knee. Photo credit: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

Cartilage is the white gristle that lines the ends of the bones in the knee (and all joints). It is a self-lubricating, slippery surface that allows the joints to move smoothly. The meniscus tissue resides between the cartilage on the femur and tibia on the outside sides of the knee.

As we mature, the cartilage layers in the knee can erode and degenerate, causing increased friction, decreased mobility, and pain. Likewise, the rubbery mobile meniscus gets harder, less palpable, and more subsequent susceptible to tears.

These factors were precisely what led to a meniscus tear in Kimberly’s knee. She extended and twisted beyond the capability of the meniscus, resulting in a tear.

With the knee being the largest weight-bearing joint in the body, it is subject to far more wear and tear than other joints. In fact, a meniscus tear is one of the most common knee injuries.

Treating meniscus tears, the most common knee injury

Kimberly’s husband, who had worked at John Muir and grown fond of the work done at Muir Orthopaedic Specialists, advised his wife that there was only one place to go.

The only doctors I trust are at Muir Orthopaedic Specialists. Make an appointment with Dr. Tischenko, he advised.

Kimberly made an appointment and saw Dr. Tischenko soon thereafter.

Looking at the x-rays and MRI scan; Dr. Tischenko explained the injury to her and advised two treatment options.

In the first option, he could sew the meniscus tear back together. Kimberly would have to immobilize the leg for 6 weeks in a brace. There was a possibility that additional surgery would be necessary in the future if the meniscus did not heal.

The second option would be to surgically remove only the torn portion of the meniscus that was unattached in Kimberly’s knee. This would allow for a faster healing process and recovery.

Kimberly after thoughtful consideration of the risks and benefits of the procedure opted to have the torn portion of the meniscus removed.

Seven years later, Kimberly can barely remember which knee had surgery. The almost invisible four-millimeter scar on her knee is the only remnant of her hardship.

After surgery, Kimberly was afraid of pushing her body too hard for fear of causing injury. Her confidence grew when she realized that she had a physician and team that she could rely on.

Now I feel I can be more active in life without being afraid, she says. Dr. Tischenko is a great doctor and I am blessed with complete physical freedom and mobility because of his help.

These days, you can find Kimberly enjoying 5-mile walks with her husband, three children, and five Pomeranians. Not only does she enjoy life to the fullest without fear, she also has full function in her knee and moves without pain.