Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury — Comprehensive overview covers knee symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention.
Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury happens far less often than does injury to the knee's more vulnerable counterpart, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The posterior cruciate ligament and ACL connect your thighbone (femur) to your shinbone (tibia). If either ligament is torn, it might cause pain, swelling and a feeling of instability.
Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that attach one bone to another. The cruciate (KROO-she-ate) ligaments connect the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia). The anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments form an "X" in the center of the knee.
Although a posterior cruciate ligament injury generally causes less pain, disability and knee instability than does an ACL tear, it can still sideline you for several weeks or months.
Signs and symptoms of a PCL injury can include:
If there are no associated injuries to other parts of your knee, the signs and symptoms of a posterior cruciate ligament injury can be so mild that you might not notice that anything's wrong. Over time, the pain might worsen and your knee might feel more unstable. If other parts of your knee have also been injured, your signs and symptoms will likely be more severe.
The posterior cruciate ligament can tear if your shinbone is hit hard just below the knee or if you fall on a bent knee. These injuries are most common during:
Being in a motor vehicle accident and participating in sports such as football and soccer are the most common risk factors for a PCL injury.
In many cases, other structures within the knee — including other ligaments or cartilage — also are damaged when you injure your posterior cruciate ligament. Depending on how many of these structures are damaged, you might have some long-term knee pain and instability. You might also be at higher risk of eventually developing arthritis in your affected knee.
During the physical exam, your doctor might press on your knee to feel for injury, looseness or fluid in the joint from bleeding. He or she may move your knee, leg or foot in different directions and ask you to stand and walk. Your doctor will compare your injured leg with the healthy one to look for any sagging or abnormal movement in the knee or shinbone.
In some cases, your doctor may suggest one or more of the following imaging tests:
Treatment depends on the extent of your injury and whether it just happened or if you've had it for a while. In most cases, surgery isn't required.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve), can help relieve pain and reduce swelling.
A physical therapist can teach you exercises that will help make your knee stronger and improve its function and stability. You may also need a knee brace or crutches during your rehabilitation.
If your injury is severe — especially if it's combined with other torn knee ligaments, cartilage damage or a broken bone — you might need surgery to reconstruct the ligament. Surgery might also be considered if you have persistent episodes of knee instability despite appropriate rehabilitation.
This surgery usually can be performed arthroscopically by inserting a fiber-optic camera and long, slender surgical tools through several small incisions around the knee.
Employing R.I.C.E. — rest, ice, compression and elevation — can help speed recovery of mild to moderate joint injuries.
If your knee injury is severe, you might need emergency medical care. Otherwise, you're likely to consult your primary care doctor. He or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in knee injuries or sports medicine.
You might want to write a list that includes:
Your doctor might ask you questions, including:
December 24th, 2020