Injuries can happen no matter your age, physical activity level, or gender. One thing we all use is our knees and they sustain a lot of impact assisting us with our day-to-day tasks. When the knee is injured, everything gets affected, but did you know that one of the more common knee injuries, when the posterior cruciate ligament is torn, primarily heals itself without surgical intervention? It’s true! Let’s look at what makes PCL injuries so unique.
What is the posterior cruciate ligament?
The PCL works essentially as an elastic anchor, keeping the tibia from moving too far back in relation to the femur. The properties of this ligament ensure knee stability. The PCL is both strong and flexible, but it is not without limitations, and when too much pressure is put on the PCL, it can be stretched or torn. This type of injury to a ligament is known as a sprain.
How do posterior cruciate ligament injuries occur?
One of the most common causes of this type of sprain is a heavy and forceful impact to the front of the knee while it is flexed (i.e. bent). One main culprit of this is automobile accidents. It is highly likely if you are sitting on the passenger’s side of a vehicle when a collision occurs, that your knee or both will hit the dashboard causing a PCL injury.
Sports can also cause many PCL injuries. It is easy to sustain a PCL sprain for instance, if you are running down the football field and get “side-swiped.” It happens very often at all levels of play. Not even non-contact sports are immune. Sports such as basketball and soccer are also full of risks to the knees. Even the seemingly simple movement of a golf swing can cause a PCL injury through the twisting motion of the leg as the player follows through. While PCL injuries caused by twisting are rarer, it is important to be mindful of the risks present.
PCL injuries may occur in isolation, or in combination with other injuries to the ligaments, cartilage or meniscus.
What are the treatment options?
Despite what may seem like a serious injury, the most likely treatment for acute, isolated PCL injuries is to not operate. This involves initial rest and swelling management with bracing followed by muscle-strengthening work while trying to reduce the posterior sag of the tibia.
Why is surgery usually not recommended? The PCL has a natural ability to heal on its own and regain continuity, but appropriate bracing and well-supervised physiotherapy are often required. Overall, non-operative management of isolated PCL injuries yields good functional results.
It’s important to note that surgery may be needed when:
- there is acute injury to the bone alongside ligament injury
- there are significant tears with concomitant chondral, meniscal and/or ligamentous injuries
- the patient has chronic functional impairment and non-operative methods have not worked.
Is there any scientific evidence that shows PCL injuries heal without surgery?
In the American Journal of Sports Medicine, a study1,2 by Dr. Shelbourne and his co-authors indicated these key results:
- Isolated PCL tears heal without surgery
- Some laxity does not reduce activity, strength or range of motion
- The incidence of moderate to severe osteoarthritis is the same for non-operative treatment and PCL reconstruction.
Does medi have a PCL-focused brace?
Yes! The M.4s® PCL dynamic brace is a revolutionary brace designed for stabilization of the knee joint after PCL injuries. The brace:
- Holds tibia in place
- Molds to the shape of the shin bone
- Is precise & customizable
- Mimics knee movement
- Fits safely & securely
- Boosts patient mobility
- Increases patient compliance
If you or someone you love has had a PCL injury, look no further than the M.4s PCL dynamic with its Patented tibial adjustment mechanism for innovative treatment of knee ligament injuries. Check it out in more detail here.