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Articular cartilage is the smooth, shiny, white tissue covering the ends of the bones. Healthy joint cartilages make it easier to move, as they are the joints’ bearing surfaces which allow the bones to glide over each other with very little friction, keeping them from rubbing together.
The articular cartilage can be damaged by even the normal wear and tear (degenerative), or by injury (i.e. traumatic falls, sudden change in direction while playing a sport). This can be from a small tear in the top layer to an extensive tear to the bone. Common cartilage damages, also known as chondral lesions are:
An articular cartilage injury, or chondral injury, may occur as a result of a pivot or twist on a bent knee, similar to the motion that can cause a meniscus tear. Damage may also be the result of a direct blow to the knee. Chondral injuries may accompany an injury to a ligament, such as the anterior cruciate ligament. Small pieces of the articular cartilage can actually break off and float around in the knee as loose bodies, causing locking, catching, and/or swelling. More often, there is no clear history of a single injury. The patient's condition may, in fact, result from a series of minor injuries that have occurred over time. Articular cartilage also wears down as a person ages.
Articular cartilage lesions in weight-bearing joints often fail to heal on their own and may be associated with pain, loss of function and long-term complications such as osteoarthritis. The treatment for chondral injuries ranges from conservative, to arthroscopic and open surgeries (arthroscopic debridement, marrow-stimulating techniques, autologous chondrocyte transfers and implantation, and allografts), and would depend on the patient’s, age, grade, and quality of the lesion.
Each part of the knee joint like the bones, ligaments and cartilage should have a physical connection to one another. Patients can prevent osteochondral defects in the knee by preserving these connections. Injuries and abnormal development can cause this problem so prevent it with: