Novak Djokovic tears right medial meniscus and withdraws from French Open

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Novak Djokovic will not win his 25th Grand Slam title at this year’s French Open. Top-seeded Djokovic’s run at Roland Garros came to a rather rude end when he had to withdraw from his quarter-final match against Casper Ruud. In fact, he wasn’t even allowed to start that match. The reason was a torn medial meniscus in his right knee that the 37-year-old Djokovic had apparently suffered during a gritty five-set victory over Francisco Cerundolo. The tear may have occurred in the third game of the second set of that fourth round match against Cerundolo.

With a record 24 Grand Slam titles in his career, Djokovic is certainly an unusual tennis player. But a torn meniscus is a common knee injury, especially in sports that require a lot of twisting, such as tennis, football, basketball and that wonderful wizarding sport of Quidditch.

If you were to look inside your knees, you would see two rubbery C-shaped pieces of cartilage in each knee. Each of these pieces of cartilage is called a meniscus. In each knee, one of these pieces of cartilage is called the lateral meniscus because of its location in the lateral part of your knee. That’s the right side of your right knee and the left side of your left knee. The other piece of cartilage is called the medial meniscus because of its location, (guess what) which is the medial part of your knee. That’s the left side of your right knee and the right side of your left knee.

You should have a total of four menisci – which is the plural of meniscus – assuming you’re a human with two knees and not a jack-of-all-trades. These menisci serve as cushions between your thigh bone and your shin bone in each of your knees. So you can thank your menisci for keeping your bones from rubbing directly against each other in a very unpleasant way.

 

As the diagram above shows, if you rest completely on them and twist or rotate your knee quickly, you can tear these menisci. As a result, you may experience pain and swelling in your knee. You may also feel stiffness and a popping sensation in your knee when you bend and straighten it. Depending on the size, shape, and location of the tear, the injury may also restrict the movement of your knee and prevent you from fully extending your knee. Your knee may feel like it’s catching on something, essentially a piece of cartilage sticking out and getting in the way of your movement. In some cases, your knee may even go into a certain position or feel like it is giving way because of the tear.

Your symptoms may not occur once the injury occurs, especially if the tear is small. In fact, it may take 24 hours or more before you notice anything is wrong.

Now, many meniscal injuries can heal with time, rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medications. So do not immediately start surgery if you have suffered a meniscus tear. However, if the tear is significant, surgery may be necessary. This involves repairing or shaving off the affected cartilage.

As you get older, your menisci may gradually become worn. This makes you more susceptible to meniscus tears as you get older. That’s another reason why playing tackle football in your 70s might not be the best idea. Carrying more weight in your body can also increase your chance of meniscus tears. Wear and tear on your menisci can reduce their cushioning effect. Without such cushioning, your femur and shin may rub more directly against each other, making your knee more likely to develop osteoarthritis.

Djokovic may have been on the wrong side in Paris with a right knee injury. But he could have plenty of recovery time before the next Grand Slam tournament, Wimbledon, which starts on July 1, as a meniscus tear can take four to 12 weeks to heal. It will all depend on the size and specific location of the tear, which an MRI can help determine.

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