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Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injury (PCL)

Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injury (PCL)

What is a PCL injury?

Your posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is located within the knee joint and connects to the tibia (shin bone) and the femur (thigh bone). It crosses over diagonally with the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and stops the tibia from sliding backwards on the femur, as well as preventing the tibia from twisting outwards.

This ligament is injured less often than the ACL because of the greater strength and thickness of the PCL. The severity of the injury can vary significantly, from a simple sprain, to a partial tear (most common) or even a complete rupture.

What is the cause?

PCL injuries often occur from high impact forces while the knee is bent, forcing the tibia back on the femur. It is more common during sports, like soccer, football and skiing. Causes include:

  • Direct impact/trauma to the knee, such as from tackles
  • Falling with the knee in a bent position
  • Hitting the knee against a car dashboard while it is bent
  • Twisting or hyperflexing the ligament
  • Mislanding a jump

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms sometimes present as a minor knee pain that may be ignored until further symptoms develop. Depending on the severity of your injury, symptoms may include:

  • Feeling unstable, like your knee is giving out from under you
  • Pain and tenderness at the knee joint, particularly on walking
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness may radiate to the calves over time

How are PCL injuries treated?

The good news is that partial tears to the PCL do have a greater capacity to heal on their own without causing long-term instability issues. When the injury first occurs, it’s important to stop physical activity and avoid walking on the affected knee where possible. Resting, elevating and icing the knee can help reduce the initial pain and swelling.

Under the care of our knowledgeable Podiatrists, we’ll work to:

  • Optimise conditions for the knee to heal
  • Rebuild strength in and around the knee
  • Restore your movement at the knee joint (this will likely be restricted following your injury)
  • Depending on the cause, aim to reduce the likelihood of this injury recurring in the future
  • Evaluate whether you may require imaging studies or surgery and refer you appropriately

Your treatment plan can include:

  • Orthotics to control motion at the feet and legs
  • Assessing the stability of your footwear and make recommendations if your current footwear is hindering your recovery
  • Teaching you how to strap your knee during your recovery
  • Using a knee brace
  • Using physical therapy exercises to improve strength and flexion in and around the knee

Every treatment plan is tailored specifically to you, your symptoms, circumstances and assessment findings. Our goal is always to deliver the best outcomes for you, so you stay active and mobile, and can keep doing the things you love.

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