Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injury (PCL Injury) Overview
The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is one of the four main ligaments of the knee responsible for keeping the knee stable. The PCL prevents the shin bone (tibia) from sliding too far backward and keeps the shin bone in position with the thigh bone (femur). The PCL is the strongest ligament in the knee; therefore, a PCL injury is rare and accounts for approximately 20 percent of ligament injuries. Dr. Nikhil Verma, orthopedic knee specialist serving patients in the Chicago, Westchester, Oak Brook and Hinsdale, Illinois communities, specializes in treating PCL injuries, such as a PCL tear or other similar ligament injury.
A PCL injury is most often caused by a powerful force to the knee in a sports activity or other traumatic event such as a motor vehicle accident. This ligament injury can occur when a basketball player falls on the knee while in a bent position, a hockey player hits the goalpost while sliding on the ice or when an individual hits the dashboard of a car in an automobile accident while in a bent position.
Symptoms of a PCL Injury
A PCL injury is a serious ligament injury and can often go undiagnosed unless a complete PCL tear occurs. Patients will experience knee pain, swelling and a decreased range of motion in most cases. Swelling tends to occur very soon after the injury because of the vascular nature of the ligament. Patients may also experience knee tenderness and instability. Instability is not as common as in an ACL injury, but may occur from a severe PCL tear.
Diagnosis of a PCL Injury
During a patient’s initial consultation, Dr. Verma will perform a thorough physical examination. He will perform various tests, including the posterior drawer test and reverse Lachman’s test, to test range of motion, pain level and overall mobility. Dr. Verma may also perform X-rays, kneeling posterior knee stress X-rays and an MRI to determine the ligament injury extent and confirm the diagnosis.
Injuries to the ligament range from a Grade 1 to Grade 3:
- Grade 1: A small partial tear
- Grade 2: A near complete tear
- Grade 3: A complete tear with other ligament injury