Shattered cartilage is cartilage that breaks up into fragments, such as when ears are pierced. A high impact can also shatter cartilage. Shattered joint cartilage may result in arterial bleeding as well as broken pieces of cartilage.
When joint cartilage is shattered, the area becomes warm, inflamed, tender, sore and painful. Stiffness and decreasing movement range can follow as damage progresses. In severe cases, broken-off pieces of cartilage can lock-up joints and lead to bleeding in the joint. Articular cartilage damage mostly happens in the knee but can also affect the elbow, wrist, ankle, shoulder and hip joint.
Direct blows, such as from a bad fall or an automobile accident, can cause severe cartilage damage. People involved in high impact sports, such as martial arts, football, or wrestling are at a higher risk. Sustained stress on a joint over a prolonged period may eventually also damage cartilage. Obese people are more prone to wear-and-tear damage than people of normal weight. Osteoarthritis results from inflammation, breakdown and gradual loss of joint cartilage.
Compared to other body tissues, damaged cartilage takes much longer to heal. This is because blood cells help repair tissue damage by diffusion, and cartilage does not have a blood supply.
Although an articular-cartilage-damage diagnosis may be devastating, modern noninvasive tests simplify the diagnostic task. Magnetic resonance imaging uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed body images that can show cartilage damage. When damage cannot be seen, an arthroscope is inserted into a joint to inspect and diagnose the problem.