Unhappy Triad Knee Injury

Injury to ACL, MCL, and Medial Meniscus

Getty Images / Alexa Miller

The "Unhappy Triad" is an injury to the knee. The unhappy triad injury commonly occurs in contact sports such as football when the knee is hit from the outside. This causes an injury to three knee structures: the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and the medial meniscus.

These injuries often occur together as a result of a severe blow to the knee.  When a force strikes the knee from the outside, such as a football player having his knee taken out from the outside by a tackler, this injury pattern can occur.

  Athletes who sustain this injury pattern will almost always undergo surgical treatment to address the damage inside their knee joint as nonsurgical treatment of this injury pattern does not lead to good results.

The typical treatment for an unhappy triad knee injury involves:

The MCL injury most often does not require surgical management, and will recover as part of the rehab following the ACL reconstruction.

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