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Injuries and Medical Advice

Meniscal Tear on a Drop Knee

Partial meniscal tear. Surgery or not?

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I was at Arapiles about 15 years ago on London Calling, a route named after the iconic and lyrically apocalyptic song
by The Clash. And so it proved to be. Upon reflecting that my knee was torqued into a position that had biomechanical carnage written all over it, I drove
upward to the next hold, assuming my educated concern was unwarranted. I mean, I had just graduated, was in love with everything, climbing pretty well,
Hottie on belay. What could go wrong?

After a couple of weeks on crutches, completely unable to weight bear with that leg, I concluded that I was young and stupid and that intuition has a rightful
place in injury prevention. It should have been an epiphany, really, that I sat at the citadel of my training philosophy. That realization, however,
took many more injuries.

Suffice it to say that my medial meniscus was reamed, squashed and torn like a pigeon that forgot to watch the traffic in Times Square. I discussed the
pros and cons of surgery with a sports physician at the time and, given that I was not a runner, there was no evidence that debriding the torn segment
was better than leaving it. There are now some studies that suggest that the flap can chafe or roughen the articular surface, causing degeneration—maybe,
maybe not.

Fifteen years later—no surgery—and I’m experiencing mechanical locking every time I shag. The knee snags and I have to say, “Hang on, honey,”
and then twist it around like an aging gymnast to unlock it. At first it was infrequent and rather amusing. Now it’s impossible to avoid, and I feel
like a geriatric.

And then there are the high-steps and rock-overs that lock the knee mid send. More than once I have had to grunt my way up a climb using one leg, the other
unable to straighten.

Times have changed since I tore my cartilage. Meniscus tears are being stitched back together with some great results. Whether you have surgery depends
on the severity and location of the tear, and not least of all how much it is affecting your life.Your knee doesn’t need to exhibit locking for surgery
to be an option. A decade and a half later, I am looking down the barrel of surgery anyway. Would it have been better to do it at the time? Time and
research will probably provide an answer that is redundant for me but highly valuable for those injured in the near future.

Get a surgical opinion, and then get another and buy a pack of tarot cards.

This article was published in Rock and Ice No 215 (January 2014).