Tears of the meniscus in the knee are common among sports athletes, especially football players. It's true that the standard of care for meniscal tears has changed. This is based on long-term studies of what happens to these athletes 10, 20, or even 30 years later.
It was once thought that the meniscus wasn't really needed. Tears causing pain or loss of motion led to surgery to remove the cartilage. Now we know that the meniscus provides mechanical support to the knee. It evens out the pressure and load in the joint. At the same time, it helps keep the joint lubricated.
Along with a better understanding of the function of the meniscus has come advances in surgical technique. Instead of an open incision, the meniscus is repaired arthroscopically. This allows more of the meniscus to be kept intact.
A thin needle is inserted into the joint through a small puncture hole. A tiny TV camera on the end of the scope allows the surgeon to see inside the joint. The tear ir repaired or the fragment that can't be repaired is removed.
It's true the players' time on the field may be decreased with multiple revision surgeries. But the individual is spared the long-term consequences of a missing meniscus. Disabling arthritis and an eventual total joint replacement may be avoided. Repairing each meniscal tear instead of taking the cartilage out improves short-term function and long-term outcomes.