Injuries to the cartilage in the knee are relatively common in football players. Meniscal tears represent 8% of all injuries sustained over a professional football season. The medial meniscus is affected in more than 70% of the cases. Focal articular cartilage defects of the knee are also a substantial cause of pain and disability in active football players. Healthy, intact articular cartilage is necessary for optimum function of the knee joint. Articular cartilage injuries affect the athlete’s ability to compete, and predispose them to further joint deterioration and eventually osteoarthritis. Focal chondral defects have been noted in up to 63% of patients undergoing arthroscopy of the knee in the general population and are observed with increasing frequency in the athletic population. Cartilage injuries are most commonly seen in female players, older players and players with a history of previous knee injury.
In this module, we will outline the evaluation and treatment of patients presenting with injuries to the articular cartilage and meniscus of the knee. We will discuss the typical history, how to perform a thorough physical examination, and the appropriate imaging studies to obtain after this injury. We will then review the numerous options available for treatment, the aspects of rehabilitation, and the expected outcomes. Finally, we will discuss methods that may help prevent these injuries.