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Cartilage tear

Chondral lesion, or lesions of the knee cartilage, are caused by the deterioration of the chondral cells, which are responsible for the elasticity of the articular cartilages. This type of injury changes the thickness of the cartilages, which shrink and degenerate. The causes can be many: at a young age, they are attributable to trauma, usually combined with meniscal or ligament injuries; at an old age, they happen due to ageing.

Age group

Chondral injuries can happen to all age groups, especially athletes who practise high-impact sports like rugby, soccer, football and basketball or those who do strenuous jobs.

Anatomy of the articular cartilage

Articular cartilage is a sort of cushion that facilitates the smooth sliding motion of the joints. The chondral cells, called chondrocytes, make this tissue elastic, smooth, and resistant to stress, such as pressure or traction. It absorbs shock while walking or running.

Symptoms

In knee-related pathologies, the chondral lesion manifests itself with muscle pain even during simple movements, accompanied by pain in the joint, crackling sounds, and movement limitation. If the cartilage detaches from the bone, it can fully hinder the movement of the joint.

When should you call a doctor?

You should call a doctor when the pain becomes acute and localized or when mechanical symptoms such as jerks or joint blockage occur.

Diagnostic tools

It is always recommended to perform radiographs or x-rays of the symptomatic knee in the anteroposterior weight-bearing view, axial and lateral weight-bearing view of the kneecap (patella), including the Rosenberg method. When a chondral lesion is suspected, specific tests such as MRI and CT scan are required in some cases.

What to do in the meantime?

Before a visit, decrease activity and take anti-inflammatory medication and painkillers as prescribed by your treating doctor. Use crutches or a walking cane to decrease the load on the joint. Apply ice to the joint, but not in direct contact with the skin.

How to prevent chondral injury?

To prevent cartilage injuries, you should stay active in sports and exercise, using equipment and appropriate footwear to cushion the impact of load on the joint. Obesity is a direct cause of cartilage wear, and therefore your weight should always be kept under control with a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Conservative therapies

The treatment for chondral lesions depends on the severity of the injury, which may require surgery in case of medium to severe trauma. If there is no severe damage, the usual recommended treatment would be to rest, combined with anti-inflammatory drugs, hyaluronic acid injection, and physiotherapy exercises.

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