A knee cartilage tear is common among footballers, commonly occurring when you twist or turn while your foot is planted. It is also possible to suffer a knee cartilage tear as a result of repeated small injuries to the meniscus, or from degeneration.
Unfortunately a knee cartilage tear does not heal very well. This is mainly because the menisci have a limited blood supply - the outer areas have some blood vessels, but the centre of the meniscus has no direct blood supply, so damage to this area tends not to heal.
Symptoms of this injury include:
Pain: typically this is worse when you straighten the leg. Severe pain might indicate that a torn fragment of the meniscus is catching somewhere in the joint.
Swelling: the joint may swell with fluid as a result of inflammation caused by the injury.
Knee function: you may be unable to fully straighten your leg, or in some cases even walk without pain. The joint may click or even may 'lock up' from time to time.
While in some mild cases the symptoms might resolve on their own after a few weeks, in most cases symptoms will persist long-term, or flare up from time to time, until the injury is properly treated.
Initial treatment should follow the RICE formula: rest, ice, compression and elevation. A doctor will make a decision on further treatment based on the size of the tear, severity of symptoms, your age, and so on.
This could include surgery, or simply a course of physiotherapy to strengthen the supporting structures such as the quadriceps and hamstrings.