Most people have heard the phrase “torn cartilage” before. Usually you hear it when there are reports about athlete injuries. It’s actually a really common Illinois work injury too. Most people don’t know what it means exactly.

Cartilage is a soft, rubbery tissue that covers the ends of bones inside joints. Cartilage acts as a shock absorber, helping to cushion the bones and allow them to glide smoothly against one another. One place it’s really important to have good cartilage is in your knees because of course that really impacts how you feel every day. Unfortunately a lot of Illinois workers have jobs that put their knees at risk.  A common injury that results is called chondromalacia.

Chondromalacia is a condition in which this cartilage softens and breaks down. The ends of the bones can rub together, causing pain. Chondromalacia can occur with any joint, but it most commonly affects the patella (underside of the kneecap).

Chondromalacia patella is typically caused by overuse of or injury to the knee. More specifically, its causes include:

    • A fracture or dislocation of the kneecap
    • Repetitive twisting or bending of the knee joint
    • Multiple instances of bleeding inside the knee joint
    • Repeated injections of steroids into the knee
    • A muscle imbalance around the knee, meaning some muscles are weaker than others
    • Injury to a meniscus

Chondromalacia patella is common among athletes such as runners, cyclists, skiers, and soccer players. Workers who spend a great deal of time kneeling and repeatedly stressing their knees are also prone to developing the condition. Those workers include flooring layers, carpet layers, and tile setters. We have helped hundreds of workers in the last 25 years who do those jobs and have knee problems.

People with chondromalacia typically experience a dull, aching pain in the front of the knee, behind the kneecap. Walking up and down stairs can worsen that pain. If your job involves a lot of going up and down stairs during the work day, that alone could be enough to make a successful work comp case. Kneeling, squatting or sitting cross-legged can hurt. Getting up after sitting in one position for a long time, after a flight or long car ride, may also be painful. Any jobs that have these activities would likely to be covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

Some people with chondromalacia may have trouble moving their knee past a certain point, or it may buckle unexpectedly. A creaking sound or sensation is also common.

One positive with chondromalacia, as opposed to arthritis for example, is that the damage to the cartilage can often heal. Initially, treatment may involve rest, pain relievers, and physical therapy, and that may eliminate the inflammation and symptoms. If those treatments aren’t effective, surgery may be needed.

Workers who suffer from chondromalacia due to repetitive movements or an injury on the job may be entitled to workers compensation benefits. Feel free to call us at 312-346-5578 to discuss your case with an attorney for free.  There are important things to tell your doctor in these situations and we will make sure you are properly prepared.