As explained by the Mayo Clinic, the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) connects the femur to the shinbone along with the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The PCL is often damaged in car accidents as the knee makes contact with the dashboard, which is why it is frequently referred to as a “dashboard injury”.
Even minor injuries to the knee can cause lasting effects, including chronic pain and mobility limitations. They can also require extensive therapy and treatment to restore functionality.
Symptoms of dashboard knee
The symptoms of PCL injuries can last a few weeks or persist for months, depending on the severity of the damage. Swelling is the most immediate sign, as you typically notice inflammation a few hours after the accident. You may notice knee pain that makes it difficult to walk, which often results in limping. Instability is another common effect, which makes your knee feel as though it cannot fully support your weight.
The more serious a knee injury is, the more likely you are to experience chronic pain after the accident takes place. Some people also experience lasting instability, which can impact your quality of life. People with knee injuries may have a higher risk of developing arthritis in the future, which adds to existing chronic pain conditions.
Treatment of PCL injuries
Conservative treatments are the first course of action against PCL injuries. Medications relieve pain and swelling, while physical therapy restores movement and range of motion. Additionally, the R.I.C.E. protocol (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) also has a positive impact on minor to moderate PCL injuries.
When the effects are more serious, surgery is the next treatment option utilized. When other injuries are present, such as a broken knee or torn ACL, ligament reconstruction is usually performed.