The news that Derrick Rose needs yet another knee surgery is a gut punch to Rose, his teammates and anyone who watches the NBA. The injury is a torn medial meniscus in his right knee, the same injury he suffered in November of 2013. It's different than the torn ACL he suffered in the 2012 playoffs, but that was the knee issue that started this depressing cycle.
What's left unsaid in the Bulls' brief press release is what kind of surgery Rose will have. Athletes generally have two choices when faced with a meniscus tear. They can stitch the meniscus back together, or they can chop the whole thing off and proceed without it. It's hard to know which surgery is the right one to have until a doctor examines the knee, so it's possible Rose himself doesn't even know what route he'll take.
Here are the differences between the two surgeries.
Repairing the meniscus
This is the preferred option among younger players because it provides the best chance to elongate their careers. While the meniscus is not essential for living or even walking, having one sure helps deal with the day-to-day stress that comes with running, jumping and cutting for 82 games (plus playoffs, practices, workouts, summer hoops and more) a year. The meniscus acts as a cushion between knee bones; not having it puts more stress on the rest of a player's knee.
Repairing the meniscus is a difficult surgical process that takes time to heal. Should Rose elect to try to repair the meniscus, he will be out for the season and could be in jeopardy of missing the beginning of next season as well. That's how much time is needed for the tissue to reform. It certainly guarantees nothing -- Rose himself elected to repair the meniscus last time and look what happened -- but it provides the best chance for a long career.
That said, if the meniscus is already heavily damaged, repairing it is impossible using current technology. It's not clear yet if Rose's knee has reached that point.
Russell Westbrook is the other notable player to repair a torn meniscus recently. After a couple setbacks, he's back and better than ever.
Removing the meniscus
As noted earlier, menisci aren't essential for normal, everyday life. They actually degenerate over time; one reason we feel pain when we try to exercise as we get older is that there's less cushion in the knee to absorb pressure. Removing the meniscus only accelerates that process. It is done often when it is unrepairable due to repeated trauma or deterioration. What good is trying to fix knee tissue that is already heavily damaged?
Removing the meniscus entirely would actually give Rose the best chance of returning to the court soonest. Depending on the severity of this tear, he could return in six to eight weeks, allowing him to play in the postseason if he so desires. But it also comes with major long-term consequences: he will play in pain for the rest of his career and that career will be significantly shorter than it would have been if the repaired meniscus held up.
Dwyane Wade is a famous example of a player that removed his meniscus rather than repairing it. He did that in college at Marquette and said 11 years later that he regretted his decision.
"My knee problems and the things I've dealt with started from that," Wade said. "That was  years ago and technology was different and the way you approach things was different.
"At that moment, if everyone looked ahead and said, 'Dwyane's going to have a 20-year career, maybe we should do something different,' maybe I wouldn't have [knee issues]. At that time it was to get me back on the basketball court and do what is best."
Wade has ultimately put together a Hall of Fame career, but his knees have broken down over the past few years.
It is also possible to have a portion of one's meniscus removed, but not the whole thing. That is what Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe did last year, and he missed two and a half months after that. This procedure is generally done for tears that are not as serious, which may ultimately be the case for Rose.
Source: Initial belief is that this tear is not as extensive as tear in November 2013. So no official timeline until after surgery.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) February 25, 2015
But with the meniscus having already once been torn traumatically, it's also possible Rose may have no choice but to remove it. Only his doctor will know the best answer.