A dashboard knee injury is a simpler way of saying posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury. The PCL is one of four ligaments that help keep your knee stable. A dashboard knee injury is usually caused by a traumatic or impactful incident, such as when a car accident launches your knee into the dashboard, hence the name.

Most people are way more familiar with the other cruciate ligament in your knee, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). ACL injuries are much more common and usually require surgery to repair. PCL injuries are not as common as ACL injuries since the PCL is a thicker, stronger ligament, but dashboard knee injuries still account for about 20% of all knee ligament injuries.

What is the posterior cruciate ligament?

Knee ligaments are thick bands of tissue that attach your femur (thighbone) to your tibia (shin bone). The posterior ligament is the back, and the anterior one is in the front, but they cross in the middle of your knee cap to create a strong, stable environment for your knee and help it move back and forth smoothly.

The posterior cruciate ligament ensures that the shin bone does not move too far backward. The anterior ligament is the weaker and more vulnerable of the two, which is why it gets injured more often. Collateral ligaments are on the outside of your knee and help with sideways movements.

What are the common causes of PCL injuries?

In addition to car accidents that push your knee into a dashboard, PCL tears or injuries can also be the result of a bad fall during sports or a slip-and-fall incident that causes you to pull or stretch the ligament too much.

Often, a PCL injury occurs in conjunction with injury to other parts of the knee. PCL injuries are not as easy to diagnose, and are often underdiagnosed. Symptoms of PCL injuries are similar to those of ACL injuries, which are pain, swelling, and difficulty walking.

How do you treat a PCL injury?

Unlike ACL injuries, many PCL injuries don’t require surgery. The course of treatment depends on the severity of your injury and if there are other parts of the knee that have been injured.

PCL injuries are often broken down into three stages or grades:

  • Stage 1 is a partial tear of the PCL
  • Stage II is a complete tear of only the PCL
  • Stage III is a complete tear of the PCL along with injuries to other parts of the knee

The recommended treatment for partial tears or strains usually involves rest, icing, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and pain medications, and physical therapy.

Stage II PCL injuries may require surgery, depending on the severity of the injury. Stage III PCL injuries, where other ligaments are also damaged, will most likely require surgery.

For more information on dashboard knee injuries and other knee problems, call one of our Tri-State Orthopaedics offices in Memphis or Germantown, Tennessee, or make an appointment online.

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