This study tested the hypothesis that application of a valgus force necessary to create a complete medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury causes damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Twelve cadaveric knees were used to measure concomitant loading and damage to the ACL in valgus knee loading sufficient to cause a grade III MCL injury. Displacement sensors were placed on the anteromedial bundle of the ACL and posterior oblique ligament to monitor tensile strain during creation of the MCL injury. A valgus moment was applied to knees flexed at 30 degrees, displacing the joint into valgus rotation beyond MCL rupture. Following valgus loading and MCL injury, femur-ACL-tibia specimens were tested to failure to compare ACL mechanical integrity to noninjured control specimens. Average ACL strength in MCL ruptured knees (1250 +/- 90 N) was statistically lower (P < or = .05) than that for control knees (2110 +/- 50 N). Strain measurements exhibited concomitant posterior oblique ligament strain during valgus loading, whereas ACL strain increased substantially only after MCL rupture. These data indicate that the ACL can be compromised in isolated grade III MCL injuries.