Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injuries
The PCL is located in the middle of the knee, next to the anterior cruciate ligament (PCL). While the ACL helps prevent your thigh bone (femur) from moving too far forward, the PCL helps prevent your shin bone (tibia) from moving too far backward. The PCL is lesser known because it is not injured as frequently as the ACL. However, injuries to the PCL should be taken seriously as this ligament significantly affects the stability of the knee.
Causes of PCL Injuries
Injuries to the PCL typically occur when the tibia is hit by an outside force while the leg is bent. Some examples of ways this can happen is when falling on the shins, being tackled in football, or during a car accident when the shin strikes the dashboard. A hyperextended knee can also cause a torn PCL.
Symptoms of a Torn PCL
Like most ligament tears, a torn PCL is typically observed with swelling and pain. Usually the swelling is located in the back of the knee, and in some cases there may be bruising. Some patients may have difficulty walking, and in severe cases, the knee may feel unstable like it's "giving out". If you are concerned that you’ve injured your PCL we recommend you see a medical professional.
How to Treat a Torn PCL
As with most knee injuries, immediate course of action following a PCL injury should be resting from physical activity, icing the area to control pain, and elevating to reduce swelling. How you continue to treat a torn PCL depends on how severe the injury is and a physician's recommendation. A physician will typically classify a PCL injury on a severity scale.
Grade 1: The PCL has been slightly stretched, but is still intact.
Grade 2: The PCL is partially torn and may be slightly loose.
Grade 3: The PCL is completely torn, with possible injuries to other nearby ligaments.
Because the PCL is difficult to operate on, surgery is typically not recommended for grade 1 and grade 2 injuries. With physical therapy and muscle strengthening, most patients will be able to return to activity without knee stability problems. Surgery on grade 3 tears must be evaluated based on how stable the knee feels when walking and running, and whether or not other ligaments are also injured or torn.
A PCL knee brace is often recommended, especially for athletes who have injured their PCL. These knee braces can help stabilize the joint and protect the PCL from further injury. They can also help prevent a PCL injury from occurring in the first place. A great knee brace for PCL injuries is the DonJoy Armor Knee Brace with Standard Hinge with PCL strapping. As with any injury, your doctor will be the best source of advice on the appropriate treatment method for your situation.