The posterior cruciate ligament or PCL consists of tough bands of tissue that connects the thighbone to your shinbone. While the PCL is larger and stronger than the ACL – and therefore is torn less often – 20 percent of knee injuries are attributed to this ligament.
Sports such as baseball and softball are common causes of PCL injuries. Falling onto a bent knee or by pulling or stretching the ligament (perhaps through a twisting or hyperextension injury).
The symptoms of a PCL injury are fairly immediate, including:
- Rapid pain and swelling in the knee
- Swelling that causes the knee to be stiff
- Trouble walking
- Unstable knee
At the first visit, your doctor will do a physical examination of your injured knee against your non-injured knee. He or she may also confirm your diagnosis with tests such as X-rays and MRIs.
Depending on the severity of your injury, your doctor will recommend nonsurgical or surgical treatment. If you have injured your PCL, it may heal well without surgery. Surgery may be necessary if you have a severely damaged knee, such as multiple torn ligaments or a dislocated knee in addition to the torn PCL. The procedure will involve rebuilding the ligament with a tissue graft as well as with a minimally invasive arthroscope.
Rehabilitation will include a physical therapy program to regain knee strength and mobility. If you had PCL surgery, this program will begin 1 to 4 weeks after your procedure. How long it will take for you to return to your lifestyle will depend on your injury and treatment. On average, full recovery requires 6 to 12 months. Though a slow process, most patients respond well to these PCL treatments and rehabilitation plans.