What is the Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL)?
There are 4 main ligaments that stabilize the knee - 2 collateral ligaments (medial and lateral) and 2 cruciate ligaments (anterior and posterior). The cruciate's are fixed to the femur (thigh bone) and travel within the knee joint to the upper surface of the tibia (shin bone).
The ligaments pass each other in the middle of the joint forming a cross shape, hence the name 'cruciate'. The main function of the PCL is to prevent the tibia from moving backwards underneath the femur. It also prevents the tibia from twisting outwards. Injury to the ligament leads to knee instability with the shin bone having a tendency to 'sag' backwards when the knee is bent at 90 degrees. The PCL is less frequently injured than the ACL as it is thicker and stronger. The most common mechanism for PCL injury involves a direct impact to the front of the shin whilst the knee is bent. Symptoms include pain at the time of impact or injury which feels like it's in the back of the knee or calf. There is less swelling after a PCL injury than with an ACL injury. The joint may feel weak or unstable.
Treatments for Posterior Cruciate Ligament Sprain
Stop playing immediately and rest with the leg in an elevated position. Apply ice or another form of cold therapy and a bandage or support for compression. Seek medical attention as soon as possible. If the Doctor suspects a PCL injury they will refer you for an MRI scan to confirm the injury. Usually conservative treatment and rehabilitation are sufficient following a PCL injury, however in some cases surgical reconstruction of the ligament may be necessary.
Cold therapy wraps or packs are recommended for early stage treatment of all injuries to reduce pain, inflammation and swelling. A knee wrap is particularly useful for injuries where the injured structure is deep within the joint. A wrap around knee support or bandage is recommended in the early stages to help with compression. Later on, a hinged or stabilised knee support will help to support the joint and prevent twisting and sideways movements. Whilst rehabilitating the injury, resistance bands are great for starting to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint and wobble balance boards are an excellent tool for regaining the sense of balance and positioning at the joint.