Defects and tears and articular cartilage disease, oh my!

After nearly a month of limping around, I had self-diagnosed a meniscal tear requiring surgery. Well, I was half right. Turns out my meniscus is fine.. but that’s about it.

I’m still digesting this info, but here’s the official radiologist impressions:

  1. Full-thickness cartilage defect from the central weight-bearing portion of the lateral femoral condyle measuring 6 x 9 mm which may include a thin rim of cortex and is displaced anterior to the distal anterior cruciate ligament. reactive subarticular bone marrow edema.
  2. Partial tear distal posterior cruciate ligament
  3. Grade II to III articular cartilage disease patellofemoral compartment, more severe in the lateral facet of the patella. Minimal tendinopathy proximal patellar tendon.
 Apparently a big splash of white radiating up through a black bone is not something you want to see.

Apparently a big splash of white radiating up through a black bone is not something you want to see.

So…. basically, I broke off part of my cartilage. (I could see it on the images the doc showed me, although I can’t get the same resolution here) As we’ve all heard before, cartilage doesn’t really spontaneously heal itself. We need to ‘help it’, so I’ll undergo surgery (also, to get my floater out!). The common approach is microfracture surgery – “an articular cartilage repair surgical technique that works by creating tiny fractures in the underlying bone. This causes new cartilage to develop from a so-called super-clot.”

The recovery post-surgery is 6 weeks non-weight-bearing, which is sorta a drag but I was non-weight bearing for 16 weeks after my other leg surgery, so this’ll be a cakewalk! I asked about the New York Marathon, and she seemed to think I’d be fine if I went ahead and got it taken care of now. Of course this puts a major damper on a lot of summer plans, but I’m trying to focus on the positive.. and just accept the situation as it is.

Given the fact it’d been nearly a month and I wasn’t really seeing marked improvement, I was mentally trying to prepare myself for surgery. Turns out I didn’t quite do a good enough job, but at least I started. I decided that since I can’t run, rock-climb or do cross-fit, this seems as good a time as any to work on that swimming thing! I’m not really comfortable with having my head underwater unless I have a SCUBA tank attached to my back, so I figure I may as well put my energies into learning something new I wouldn’t otherwise..


  • Andrea
    I ran the North Shore Marathon in April and plan to run Honolulu in Dec. I noticied my knee was locking and just received my MRI results: non-displaced full thickness tear in the femoral articular cartilage. I knew it was something and now I am on the fence should I get knee surgery or just stick with rehab. What is the feedback on the surgery? Will I need a brace?

    • Hi Mike –

      I actually haven’t even had my surgery yet, so I can’t give you too much guidance. I will tell you that when I had a partial tear of my PCL two years ago I went the non-surgical route and everything seemed fine. This time I AM doing surgery and I’m looking at a long recovery time: 6 weeks non-weight-bearing, then another 2.5-3.5 months of no running. The PA did tell my today that I may not need a ton of official physical therapy, but they’ll know more after Wednesday.

      I know I NEED the surgery: a month after my incident I still can’t go up or down stairs at all; it’s not getting better. If I felt like it could improve on its own, I would probably try to avoid surgery.

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