Unhappy Triad: Torn ACL, MCL and Meniscus
An injury to a ligament in the knee often entails damage to other structures as well because of the complex construction of the joint. Surgeons refer to the so-called Unhappy Triad of torn ACL, MCL and meniscus— a triple-pronged injury that is often seen in knee patients. Multiple ligament tears are best treated as soon as possible after the injury, before scar tissue can form.
The following ligaments enable the knee to support the body’s weight and remain flexible:
- the Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) and Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) control back-and-forth movement;
- the Medial Collateral Ligament (MLC) helps to brace the inside of the knee;
- the Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) braces the ouside of the knee, controlling sideways motion and protecting the knee from over-extending.
While most injuries to the knee ligaments are sprains or ruptures, sudden impact can result in a partial or complete tear. A torn ACL, the most common knee injury, occurs frequently in athletes. The doctor may conduct a physical exam and order imaging tests to determine the exact nature of the injury. If the injury is not severe, he may prescribe conservative treatments such as pain relievers, ice, compression and/or resting the affected knee. If the damage is severe, surgery may be advised.
Give Knee Ligament Injuries Time to Heal
Patients who have suffered a torn ligament are often eager to return to their favorite sport or activity. Because the knee is a critical joint for nearly every vigorous activity, it is important to allow sufficient time for recovery. The length of the healing period depends on the type of injury and the treatment but generally, surgery for a torn ACL should be followed by up to six months of recovery time.
Torn Knee Ligament Recovery and Rehabilitation
Recovery after knee construction starts with one to three weeks to allow the swelling to subside. During this time, the knee should be elevated and treated with ice. Doctor may also prescribe exercises on a stationary bicycle.
During the following two to six weeks, exercises to improve range of motion and strength are added to the patient’s regimen.
From about six weeks to four months, the patient may be allowed to resume jogging. After six months, he or she can return to their sport or activity.
Ligament repair and replacement for damaged knees have been among orthopedics’ great success stories, with elite athletes returning to successful careers after injuries that ended many a career just a few years ago.