What is a PCL Injury?
The main tasks of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) are to prevent the tibia (shin) from moving backwards on the femur (thigh) and to prevent the tibia from twisting outwards. A PCL injury results in knee instability, causing the shin bone to lean backwards when the knee is bent at 90 degrees.
A PCL injury is not as common as an ACL injury, partly because the PCL is thicker and stronger than the ACL. Most PCL injuries occur as the result of a direct hit to the front of the tibia while the knee is bent. This injury often occurs along with others, including lateral meniscus tears and damage to the articular cartilage. PCL injuries can range from mild to severe, and in the most extreme cases the PCL is pulled off the bone completely.
Symptoms of a PCL Injury
Symptoms of a PCL injury include pain at the time of impact that may eventually be felt in the calf, swelling, pain when the PCL is stressed, and instability of the knee.
Treatment of a PCL Injury
Immediately after a PCL injury occurs, individuals should apply RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. A doctor or sports injury professional should be consulted as soon as possible to get a diagnosis. Treatment typically includes physical therapy and strengthening exercises, along with a knee brace. If these measures are not successful, PCL reconstruction surgery is performed. This procedure is similar to ACL reconstruction surgery, in which a graft is used to create a new ligament.