Some people wonder what happened to the Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson (CJ2K)Did you know that CJ2K played a majority of the season on a torn meniscus last year? Yup, it’s true, since week 3 on the NFL season, CJ2K played on a meniscus tear. If his silver-plated teeth weren’t a dead give away, then playing on a symptomatic torn meniscus does Mr. Johnson is the real deal…he is as tough as they come.
To understand toughness that it would take to play on a torn meniscus, you must first understand the meniscus itself. The meniscus is essentially a wedge of cartilage in your knee. This tough and rubbery meniscus acts as a shock absorber between the femur and the tibia. In layman’s terms, the meniscus is a cushion between the thighbone and the leg bone. An intact meniscus is essential for proper cushioning and stability. When the meniscus is torn, there will be significant pain and swelling. It can cause a sharp searing pain that will bring you to your knees…literally. It can cause instability which can lead an athlete to fall. One of the worst feelings when dealing with a torn meniscus is the feeling you get when you place the brunt of your weight on that knee. It almost instantaneously does one of two things, locks up or gives out. Now imagine running for 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns against an NFL defense on one of those bad boys. Gives you a new respect for CJ2K, doesn’t it?
There are two real ways to treat a torn meniscus and neither of them involves continuing to use your knee the way that Chris Johnson did. Non-surgical treatment involves the age-old acronym RICE. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This is pretty standard protocol for any inflammatory process. Measures like these can work for what is called a “degenerative tear”. Much of the scientific studies today talking about how arthroscopies aren’t helpful are targeting treatment of degenerative tears. However, acute meniscal tears that occurs in relatively younger athletes usually happens as a result of a twisting or pivoting maneuver. The tears usually require an arthroscopy for symptom relief. Knee arthroscopy is one of the most common orthopedic procedures involves the use of miniature cameras and surgical instruments to repair and/or clean away the tear. After a successful surgery comes a tremendous amount of rehabilitation. Rarely, meniscus tears are actually repairable. This is a special kind of tear that can actually be repaired. We can use platelet rich plasma (PRP) clots to augment the healing. The rehabilitation process for repairs takes longer but is well worth it. After a meniscus repair, the athlete will need a month on crutches followed by range of motion and strength exercises. The total rehabilitation time is approximately 3 to 4 months.
So what does this all mean for our 2009 fantasy football MVP, Chris Johnson? He had a successful meniscus repair surgery at the end of January and was completely rehabilitated by training camp. He gets a change of scenery as he heads to the run-happy New York Jets. To expect another 2,000-yard season would be foolish, but to think that he will bounce back to be the back we all thought he was, is not completely out the realm of possibilities