--> Skip to content

The Unhappy Triad of the Knee

The Unhappy Triad of the knee, sometimes also called the “terrible triad,” refers to three common knee injuries. This includes tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), or medial meniscus. Knee trauma can result in any combination of the three, with the ACL being the most traumatic. Knee specialists in Brampton often deal with the Unhappy Triad of the knee on sport athletes and occasionally injured persons after car accidents.

These severe Unhappy Triad knee injuries most often are the result of the foot being firmly planted to something prior to incurring trauma. An example of an Unhappy Triad knee injury is as follows: a Brampton soccer player’s foot might be planted to the ground prior to receiving a leg tackle. The weight planted on the ground prevents it from carrying the force away from the knee, thus the force impacts the knee and causes injury. Immediate symptoms include severe pain, a tearing sound at the time of trauma, rapid swelling, bruising within 2-3 days, and an unstable knee. The immediate symptoms are generally the same for all three Unhappy Triad injuries, although the ACL is often thought of as the most painful and severe.

The ACL is a tear in the part of the knee that helps with balancing and stability, often a tear will completely render this ability useless. The MCL also deals with stability, and the medial meniscus, which is fibrocartilage in the knee joint, helps to cushion the knee bone, tears in any of these areas can range from being immediately apparent, to less severe injuries which result in loss of knee strength, and less mobility and stability in the injured knee. Overlooked knee injuries can result in worse injuries later, or recurring knee problems.

If a severe injury has occurred, immediately after the trauma professional medical attention should be sought out. In the interim, applying ice, resting and supporting the knee in an elevated position, and using a compression bandage will all help to alleviate pain. Understand that an ACL tear will definitely require surgery, while the other two forms of Unhappy Triad injuries may or may not require surgery. Surgery will repair or remove the affected ligament and then allow natural healing to take place.

Often several months or even over a year of recovery time are required. Athletes who have previously injured a knee should take preventative action for further knee injuries by utilizing an athletic knee brace during further play. Knee specific exercises should also be employed to increase knee strength and further reduce the possibility of a knee injury. Brampton physical therapists and athletic trainers often will recommend knee exercise and knee braces as great preventative measures against Unhappy Triad injuries.

Sports are a great activity, but can sometimes lead to injury. Knee injuries are becoming more common for athletes, so preventative measures should be adopted. If an injury does occur, seek medical attention, and understand that you are not alone; many athletes have had knee injuries and are back on the playing field in no time with proper care and attention.


Yes please contact me I want to get healthy and move around Pain FREE