Behind your knee cap are two really important ligaments that form an X, and they hold your femur together with the tibia. They’re two of the most important ligaments which help your leg bend at the knee. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) are called. They are your knee’s interior dynamic duo. On the outside, you’ve got two medial (inside) and lateral (outside) collateral ligaments that are both critical to knee stability. They help keep the knee from hyper-extending or bending sideways. That’s basic knee anatomy. The ACL keeps the bottom part of your leg from moving too far forward and the PCL keeps it from moving too far backward. Sometimes, though, these ligaments can tear. You’ve probably heard about a college or professional athlete who has torn their ACL. But what about the PCL?
A PCL injury is a rare sports injury that occurs in any athlete who has explosive acceleration, agility, and cutting movements as part of their regular activity. Of course, it doesn’t always happen to athletes. There are traumas, such as a car wreck, which can cause damage to the PCL. These injuries are classified by severity as Grade 1, Grade 2, or Grade 3. Grade 1 is a hyperextension where the ligament is stretched beyond what it was meant to. Grade 2 is when that stretching turns into a slight tear. Grade 3 is when the ligament is torn all the way through. With a PCL injury, your knee will feel unstable and you will have pain on the inside of your knee. The pain can also extend up to your hip and down the inside of your thigh.
If you’ve recently injured your knee and are wondering if it was a PCL injury, there are a few telltale signs to look out for. You should also watch out for two specific symptoms: Pain in the back of your knee and swelling in the knee. If you’re experiencing those symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor immediately to diagnose the issue and rule out any other potential injuries. The sooner you address the injury, the better off your recovery process will be.
For Grade 1 and 2 injuries, there are non-surgical options for treatment. To start with, your normal RICE protocol is important: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Stay off of it as much as you can for a few days. Use a compression knee brace and ice the back of your knee regularly. You can also take anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications. Depending on how severe a Grade 2 injury is, you might even do physical therapy. All of this should be in consult with your doctor.
For a Grade 3 injury, your only option is surgery. The good news is that since the cruciate ligaments have gotten so much attention due to their injuries being associated with professional athletes, we’ve gotten really good at them. We’re able to repair the injury and have you back on your feet in no time. Well, after recovery and rehab, that is.
PCL injuries are on the rise, and it’s important for athletes, weekend warriors, and anyone else who participates in sports to take the necessary precautions to avoid any sort of injury. One of the most important things you can do is to always keep your knee properly braced and supported. If you hurt your PCL, it is absolutely essential that you treat it as soon as possible. The sooner you go to a doctor, the sooner you will be able to get back on track.