Meniscus Tear

Rick Wilkerson, D.O., is Decorah’s newest orthopedic surgeon. With extensive experience in sports medicine, Dr. Wilkerson answers questions about one of the most common sports injuries: a meniscus tear.

Q. What is a meniscus tear?
A. The meniscus is made up of two wedge-shaped pieces of cartilage that act as “shock absorbers” between your thighbone and shinbone. Meniscus can tear in different ways (how and where), and often occur with other knee injuries, such as an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear.

A meniscus tear can happen during sports when an athlete squats or twists, but tears can also occur in older adults with aged or worn tissue when they perform the same actions.

Q. What are the symptoms?
A. When you tear a meniscus, you may feel a “pop,” but most people are still able to walk or play. However, over a few days, your knee will become more stiff and swollen.

The most common symptoms of a meniscus tear are:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness and swelling
  • Catching or locking of your knee
  • The sensation of your knee “giving way”
  • You are not able to move your knee through its full range of motion

Q. What is the treatment and recovery?
A. Depending on the location of the tear, there are surgical and non-surgical options. If the tear is small and on the outer edge of the meniscus, it may heal with Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE). If the tear is more complex and on the inner side of the meniscus, you may need a minimally invasive surgical procedure called knee arthroscopy. In knee arthroscopy, a miniature camera is inserted through a small incision to provide a clear view of the inside of the knee. The surgeon inserts miniature surgical instruments through other incisions to trim or repair the tear. Due to the importance of the meniscus in preventing the development of arthritis, it has become more common to attempt to repair the meniscus when possible instead of removing the torn fragment. Patients return home the same day.

Depending on the complexity of the tear, healing and rehabilitation with a physical therapist can take from 1-3 months. Most patients return to pre-injury abilities.

Make an appointment

Dr. Wilkerson is an experienced, proven orthopedic surgeon who has special interest in joint replacements and sports medicine surgical care. He performs hip, knee and shoulder replacements, all sports medicine procedures including ACL reconstruction surgery, pediatric orthopedic surgery, hand procedures, fracture repair and more. Dr. Wilkerson comes to Winneshiek Medical Center after 30+ years building a successful practice of eight orthopedic surgeons in Spencer, Iowa.


The Winneshiek Medical Center orthopedic practice is supported by the latest in MRI technology, quality skilled care for recovery, and the most specialized physical and occupational therapy practice in the region for successful rehabilitation.


Dr. Wilkerson’s schedule is open and he is accepting new patients at Winneshiek Medical Center. To make an appointment with Dr. Wilkerson, call 563-382-2911.

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