Thursday, June 2, 2011

Unhappy Triad Injury

Knee is the largest joint in a human body. It comprises of femur (lower end of thighbone) and a knee cap (patella) which fits into the groove perfectly on one end of femur through a sliding mechanism. A knee also contains ligaments which aid in controlling motion by bracing joints against abnormal types of motion. Between the femur and the tibia (upper end of shinbone), there is a structure known as meniscus. This structure is constituted of soft cartilage between femur and tibia and absorbs any shock during leg movements. So when there is an injury to knee, a sudden knee pain is bound to be felt.

A torn ligament in knee could be one of the knee pain causes. However, when three structures of the knee, ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), MCL (medial collateral ligament) and medial meniscus get affected by an external injury, the term coined for such a condition is unhappy triad injury. Let's understand the causes for this unhappy triad knee injury.

What is the Unhappy Triad Injury?
The unhappy triad injury is an aggregation of three types of knee injuries that are explained below. Since this knee injury involves a meniscus tear, an ACL tear and an MCL tear, the name unhappy triad is given to it. Let's understand each of these injuries in detail.

ACL Tear: The anterior cruciate ligament tear is very painful and the most crucial of all knee injuries. This ligament helps in balancing of legs. When there is an ACL tear, the person might experience a knee pain and inability to walk properly (occasionally buckling away).

Meniscus Tear: The second of the unhappy triad, meniscus tear involves tearing of the fibrocartilage in the knee joint, thereby reducing the resistance of the knees (since meniscus aids in cushioning the knee bone and reducing friction in bones). Medial meniscus tear can cause inflammation in the knee causing meniscus pain. Some popping sensations can also be felt in the knee.

MCL Tear: The unhappy triad is completed by the tear of the medial collateral ligament which runs along the inside of the knee. This ligament is responsible for providing stability to the knee joint. Symptoms of pain, decreased range of motion and instability indicate an MCL tear.

What Causes the Unhappy Triad?
The unhappy triad knee injury is an outcome of stressful and rigorous sports activities like football and rugby. When a blow is inflicted on the outside of the knee of an athlete (who is in stance position with feet on ground), chances of this unhappy triad injury are maximum. The ACL tear and meniscus tear can occur simultaneously during a plant and turn movement in the game. When the knee, after the first injury continues to move along the same path. The ACL tears further causing the knee to shift. Consequently, the femur and tibia compress against the meniscus causing the soft fibrocartilage to tear. And an external blow on the same spot adds to the MCL tear.

Prominent symptoms felt post unhappy triad injury are swelling in the knee with a bruise around it, severe knee pain, instability (this happens as tibia and femur slide against each other) and rupture in the triad ligaments.

Unhappy Triad Injury Treatment
The most painful part of the unhappy triad injury is the ACL tear. It can be treated only with surgery. A person having undergone this injury can take even months to recuperate completely. Reconstructing the ACL is the primary goal in the surgery after which the MCL tear and meniscus tear gradually start to heal. The unhappy triad recovery time can range between 6-9 months depending on the seriousness of the injury. Post surgery, knee braces can be used for prophylactic reasons. Many athletes use knee braces for running. This will reduce the probabilities of occurrence of this injury.

Unhappy triad injury is definitely a painful condition for players. But with a lot of surgical treatments and proper knee care, such conditions do recover quite fast. So next time, when indulging in physically engaging sport activities, if there is a sharp knee pain and instability felt while walking, do not ignore the symptoms! Check with the doctor at the earliest! Hope this article, on unhappy triad knee injury, was informative!

1 comment:

  1. Good sharing, Knee joint pain is a common problem with many causes, from acute injuries to medical conditions. Normally people will believe surgery is the only way to relief knee pain, in fact, some may ask how to cure knee pain without surgery. Yes there are ways like using Unloading bracing technology, having ergo mattress etc. More information: