Cartilage is a connective tissue found throughout the body that lines joint surfaces. It is less rigid than bone but is stiff enough to help absorb shock placed on the joints. In the knee, cartilage provides a smooth protective layer covering the femur, tibia and undersurface of the patella. Cartilage serves as a shock-absorbing structure for the bones in the knee and provides a frictionless articulating surface.
Cartilage may be damaged by sports activities, traumatic injuries, or even work injuries. When one hears the term “loose bodies” within a joint, it refers to cartilage that has been separated from the bone and can now float within the knee. This can often be the result of an abnormal twisting motion to the joint which can occur during a traumatic injury. Daily wear and tear or prolonged stress on the knee can also lead to a knee cartilage injury. Austin, Round Rock, and Cedar Park, Texas communities orthopedic knee specialist, Dr. Jeff Padalecki, has extensive experience successfully treating cartilage damage in the knee.
It is important to note that cartilage does not have a blood supply of its own, and therefore does not have a natural ability to heal itself when damaged. If left untreated, defects can cause further deterioration in the joint leading to the development of osteoarthritis, as well as other progressive degenerative conditions.
What are the Symptoms of a Knee Cartilage Injury?
The most common symptom of cartilage injuries, depending on the level of damage, is a constant, dull ache and swelling with activity. In more severe cases, a piece of the cartilage can break off and become lodged in the joint, causing the knee to lock.
How are Knee Cartilage Injuries Diagnosed?
In most cases, injury to the cartilage that exists within the knee may not be immediately apparent if the patient is complaining of knee pain and or weakness. Dr. Padalecki will conduct a thorough examination of the knee and perform X-rays. If he continues to suspect a cartilage injury, then an MRI is the test of choice.