What is an ACL/PCL Tear? ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) tears are common knee injuries, especially for athletes. The ACL and PCL are two of four ligaments that stabilize the knee joint, allowing the knee to move forward and backward without moving side to side. The ACL is located in the center of the knee just in front of the PCL, keeping the shin bone (tibia) from moving too far forward, while the PCL keeps it from moving too far backward.

What are the symptoms of an ACL/PCL Tear? When an ACL or PCL tear occurs, an individual will typically experience some degree of pain and swelling, ranging from minor to severe. Individuals may also have decreased motion or instability in their knee joint. Most tears result in a “popping” sound and the feeling that the knee has given out. ACL tears are more likely to result in knee instability than PCL tears.

How is an ACL/PCL Tear diagnosed? ACL and PCL tears are diagnosed following a physical assessment of the knee joint, including feeling the area for swelling and testing mobility and flexibility of the joint by moving the leg in various positions. A PSMC physiotherapist will also ask how the injury occurred in order to gain a better understanding of what type of movement may have caused the injury, which can help determine which ligament is damaged.

What will the treatment for an ACL/PCL Tear consist of? After ACL injury, regardless of whether surgery will take place or not, PSMC management focuses on regaining range of movement, strength, proprioception and stability. Rest/ice/elevation/compression (RICE) should be used in order to reduce swelling and pain, to attempt full range of motion and to decrease joint effusion. Exercises encourage range of movement, strengthening of the quadriceps and hamstrings and proprioception. Before surgery RICE and electrotherapy would be applied ahead of the surgery in order to reduce swelling and pain, to attempt full range of motion and to decrease joint effusion. This will help the patient to regain better motion and strength after the surgery. After surgery the rehabilitation program at PSMC will be focused in restore the function.

What type of results should I expect from the treatment of an ACL/PCL Tear? Some patients with ACL and PCL injuries will begin to feel better following a short period of rest followed by rehabilitation to strengthen the surrounding knee joint and muscles. If the ligaments are only partially torn, pain may subside although some instability may remain and regular athletic activity levels may not be able to be performed. ACL surgery is often successful if a proper rehabilitation program is followed after surgery. PCL surgery is rarely performed unless the injury is severe. In some instances, braces may need to be worn on the knee to increase knee stability following an injury. Recovery following an ACL or PCL tear will typically allow individuals to maintain everyday activity levels, but the injury may impact participation in competitive sports (as is seen in some professional athletes).