In order to gain a basic understanding of what a posterior cruciate ligament injury is, it helps to know what exactly a ligament is. In short, ligaments are the strong bands of tissue that attach one bone to another bone. The cruciate ligaments connect the thighbone, also known as the femur, to the shin bone, known as the tibia. Forming a cross in the center of the knee are the anterior and cruciate ligaments.
Typically, an injury to the cruciate ligament is less painful than one to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). It can, however, sideline the patient for several weeks.
The posterior cruciate ligament can tear if you incur a fall on a bent knee or if your shin bone is significantly traumatized just below the knee. Contact sports are a breeding ground for this type of injury. Football and soccer players might tear the posterior cruciate ligament when falling on bended knee with their foot pointed down. A ball player who is tackled when his knee is bent is at risk for this type of injury.
Auto accidents can cause the driver or a passenger to slam a bent knee against the dashboard, thereby pushing in the shin bone right below the knee, causing the ligament to tear.
You can also sustain injury to your posterior cruciate ligament if you bend or extend your knee past its normal position, or if you get hit on the side of your knee when your leg is twisted. (Guess it is time to put away the game of Twister!)
If you are a man, your are more likely to injure your posterior cruciate ligament than if you are a woman, simply because men are more involved in the contact sports of football and soccer.
The main symptoms to alert you to possible injury to this ligament include mild or moderate pain in the knee. The knee may quickly become swollen and tender. When kneeling or squatting, you may experience some discomfort. You may notice a slight limp when you walk. Your knee may begin to feel unstable or loose, perhaps giving away when you engage in certain activities. Running or walking up and down stairs may be painful.
Unlike a tear of the ACL, when the proverbial pop is heard at the time of injury, with a posterior cruciate ligament injury, the signs can be initially vague and then gradually become more noticeable. It may take time for the pain to intensify and for your knee to prove unstable.
While an X-ray cannot assess a torn ligament, it can reveal if there are any bone fractures. Magnetic resonance imaging, an MRI, will create images of soft tissues and can show if your posterior cruciate ligament has been torn.
Treatment depends on the extent of your injury. For milder cases, the employment of protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation therapies work well. Physical therapy exercises may also be an added component to your treatment plan.
If the injury is severe enough, your doctor might recommend surgical intervention to reconstruct the joint, especially if you have sustained other injuries to the same area, such as cartilage damage or a broken bone.
Be sure to rest your injured knee and protect it. You may need to use crutches. Ice packs on your knee for 20 to 30 minutes every three to four hours for a few days can be used to alleviate the pain. Place a pillow under your knee to elevate it. Ibuprofen can be an effective pain reliever, as well. Even wrapping an elastic bandage around your knee can help with the stability and protect it.
By observing the advice of your doctor during your recuperation phase, you increase the chances of restoring full and pain-free use to your knee! After all, you are going to “knee’d” that joint for quite some time!