Knee surgery for the type of meniscus tear suffered by Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose can involve a difficult tradeoff, according to Loyola sports medicine surgeon Dr. Pietro Tonino, who has performed thousands of knee surgeries.
The quick option - removing damaged cartilage - typically enables an athlete to return to play in just four to six weeks. The tradeoff is that the athlete then would be at greater risk for suffering painful arthritis of the knee later in life.
Alternatively, repairing the damaged cartilage reduces the risk of arthritis. The tradeoff is that it would take at least 10 to 12 weeks before he could return. It's possible Rose's entire season could be lost, Tonino said.
"If you remove the damaged cartilage, the athlete can have good functional ability and a relatively fast recovery," Tonino said. "But there also will be a greater chance of knee problems down the road."
Tonino has performed thousands of knee surgeries on athletes of all levels of play. He is program director of Sports Medicine and a professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
Rose suffered a tear of the medial meniscus in his right knee. The meniscus is a rubbery, C-shaped disc of cartilage that cushions and stabilizes the knee. The medial meniscus is located on the inside of the knee (towards the inside of the body) and the lateral meniscus is located on the outside. Rose injured the medial meniscus.
A meniscus tear sometimes is accompanied by a partial tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). A partial ACL tear may not show up on an MRI, but can be seen during surgery.
The meniscus tear is Rose's second significant knee injury. He earlier tore the ACL in his left knee, which cost him an entire season. "It may be bad luck," Tonino said. "Or there may be something in his knee joints that are predisposing him to injury."
Source: Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine