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Orthopedic Surgery Knee Injury Clinic

Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injury

Also known as a hyperextended knee, a PCL injury is a partial or complete tearing or stretching of any part of the posterior cruciate ligament. The PCL is the strongest ligament in the knee which runs along the back of the knee joint from the bottom of the thighbone or femur to the top of the lower leg bone.

Symptoms of a PCL Injury

  • Pain in the knee joint
  • Swelling in the knee
  • Stiffness in the joint
  • Difficulty walking
  • Tenderness in the knee
  • Instability in the knee

Causes of PCL Injury

The primary cause of PCL injury is severe knee trauma. This also affects other knee ligaments. Hyperextension of the knee is one factor that can lead to PCL injury. This might happen during physical activities like jumping.

Additionally, a blow to the knee while it is flexed, or bent, can cause PCL injury. This includes a hard landing after falling, playing sports, or a car accident. Any trauma to the knee no matter how small it is can cause a knee ligament injury.

Diagnosis of a PCL Injury

During the diagnosis of a PCL injury, the doctor may perform a variety of tests including the following:

  • Conducting a physical examination of the knee
  • Moving the knee in various directions
  • Checking for fluid in the knee joint
  • An X-ray of the knee joint to check for any fractures
  • An MRI of the knee

Treatment of a PCL Injury

Doctors treat PCL injuries depending on the severity of the injury and the patient’s lifestyle. Treatment options for minor PCL injuries may include:

  • Taking pain medication
  • Elevating the knee
  • The use of crutches or braces to protect the knee
  • Physical therapy which involves exercises to strengthen and regain range of motion
  • Splinting
  • Applying ice
  • Avoiding exercise until the discomfort and swelling have subsided

Treatment options for more severe situations can include:

  • Surgery to repair a torn ligament
  • The use of an arthroscope, which is a tiny fiber-optic camera that can be inserted inside a joint
  • The doctor may consider physical therapy or rehabilitation to strengthen and recover the range of motion.

Preventing a PCL Injury

Preventive actions that can be used to reduce the possibility of knee ligament damage include:

  • Strengthening the lower and upper leg muscles to aid with joint stabilization
  • Regular stretching is necessary to keep the joints’ full range of motion
  • Using appropriate form and alignment when exercising, especially walking
  • Exercising caution when participating in sports like football, skiing, and tennis where knee injuries are frequent

Outlook for a PCL Injury

For minor injuries, ligaments may heal with conservative treatment. The ligament may, however, not regain its previous stability if it was stretched.

For patients with minor injuries who don’t go through surgery, the joint would likely stay unstable and be vulnerable to further damage.

For patients who undergo surgery, the prognosis will depend on the success of the surgery and the associated injuries to the knee.

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