PCL Sprains

PCL stands for the Posterior Cruciate Ligament which is the ligament that connects the thighbone (femur) to your shinbone (tibia). The PCL is larger and stronger than the ACL, however, it can still be torn. The PCL’s function is to prevent the femur from sliding off the anterior edge of the tibia and to prevent the tibia from displacing the posterior to the femur.

Injuries to ligaments are considered sprains and are graded on a severity scale.

  • A Grade 1 Sprain is when a ligament is mildly damaged. Usually, in a Grade 1 sprain, the ligament is stretched, but can still keep the joint stable.
  • A Grade 2 Sprain occurs when the ligament stretches to the point where it becomes loose. This is referred to as a partial tear of the ligament.
  • A Grade 3 Sprain is a complete tear of the ligament. The ligament is in two pieces and the knee joint is unstable.

Injuries to the PCL are often due to a direct blow to the knee while it is bent. Injury to the PCL is not as common as other knee ligament injuries. PCL sprains are often more subtle and difficult to evaluate than other ligament injuries to the knee. PCL sprains most often occur when the front of the knee hits the dashboard during an automobile accident. Another common mechanism that can cause a PCL Sprain is when an athlete falls forward and lands on a bent knee. This is very common in sports such as football, basketball, soccer, and rugby.

Symptoms of PCL Injury

  • Mild or sharp pain deep inside the knee joint or back of knee
  • Pain in the knee when lifting a heavy load
  • Pain when walking over distances
  • Tenderness of the knee
  • Stiffness throughout the knee
  • Slight swelling, usually less than an ACL Sprain. However, there could still be severe swelling.
  • Pain and swelling may dissipate after 2-4 weeks, but the instability will remain.
  • Long-term instability in the knee can lead to early arthritis of the knee

Testing for PCL Injury

  • A therapist will usually start with observing and palpating the knee joint for signs of injury.
  • The doctor examines your knee and presses against your upper shin while you are lying on your back with knee bent. Abnormal knee movement during test suggest PCL injury;.
  • Doctors could use a device called Arthrometer. This device presses against your leg to measure the ligament’s tightness.
  • Doctors will look for an abnormal walking motion
  • X-rays can also provide information about a PCL injury. They can detect pieces of bone that may have broken loose from the injury.
  • An MRI test is the most common method as it can create images of the PCL tear.

Treatment for PCL Injury

  • Rice Method
    • Rest – rest the injured knee and stop all activity involving the injured knee
    • Ice – apply ice or use a Super Cool Therapeutic Knee Wrap on injured area
    • Compression – Use a compression wrap or a Super Cool Therapeutic Knee Wrap that provides both compression and cooling
    • Elevate – Elevate the injured area about the heart in order to decrease flow of fluids to the injured area
  • Take Anti-inflammatory medication
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