Cartilage is a strong and rubbery tissue found in various parts of your body. In your knees, the tissue lines the surface of the joints and is specifically called the articular cartilage. It functions as a cushion between the joints, reducing friction and allowing bones to smoothly slide against each other.
Damage to the articular cartilage is relatively common and can occur due to accidents or gradual deterioration, which can eventually lead to osteoarthritis. Individuals who sustain articular cartilage damage usually experience knee joint pain, stiffness and swelling.
Your symptoms may be similar to those experienced by individuals with other common joint injuries such as sprain. These symptoms include:
Aside from gradual wear and tear, you may sustain a knee cartilage damage when you twist your knee or during any activities where you are likely to fall or slam into another person or object, such as in a vehicle accident or high-impact sports (eg, soccer, football, basketball, rugby and skiing).
The force from the fall or collision can cause a tear to the articular cartilage in your knee.
Individuals who are engaged in contact or high-impact sports are more likely to sustain a knee cartilage damage than those who do not participate in such sports.
Additionally, overweight or obesity, poor alignment of the knee joint, and prolonged periods of inactivity or immobility can accelerate the wearing away of the articular cartilage.
Articular cartilage injuries can lead to knee osteoarthritis over time. Osteoarthritis is characterised by the loss of articular cartilage and the bones rubbing together, causing friction and pain.
You can minimise your risk of knee cartilage damage by having a proper warmup before sports or high-impact activities, performing exercises and stretches that help strengthen the knee, enhancing your athletic technique to lower your risk of abnormal twisting or bending, and shedding excess weight.