Molly Python, in the process of tearing her PCL.
Photo by L.J. McAllister, posted on the Jet City Rollergirls Flickr site.
Having a PCL tear has been an interesting experience as a patient because it is apparently not a very common injury. My original doctor had never seen one before and was pretty pleased with himself for diagnosing it correctly (later confirmed by the MRI). He's still talking about it. The orthopedist I was referred to gave me a little pamphlet entitled "You and your knee injury" or something similar, where the only line in it about the PCL is that it is injured much less frequently than the ACL. Not too helpful. He only gave it to me for the drawing in it that showed where the PCL was located. When I went to my physical therapist, he called in his student to check it out because she wasn't likely to get another chance anytime soon. Which I find fascinating because it seems to be fairly common in roller derby.
Apparently people tear their PCLs mostly from being in car accidents (when they're shins hit the dashboard) or playing football (when they are tackled from the front while planting their feet). How common it is in the general populace is not really known, but studies of National Football League (NFL) pre-draft physical examinations showed 2% incidence of PCL injuries where the football player didn't even know he had ever torn his PCL. PCL injuries which were known about, operated on, or combined with other ligament injuries ranged from 3.5-20%. That seems fairly high to me, but we're talking about professional-level football players, so it doesn't seem ridiculous.
What about roller derby? WFTDA conducted an injury survey last year whose results are available on the WFTDASafetySquad Yahoo Group. Here's a bunch of disclaimers: This is in no way a scientific study. Responding was voluntary. I have only skimmed the surface of these results and could easily have made mistakes. That being said, I think there are some interesting trends to be found:
that's a pretty high percentage.
- Out of 1070 respondents, 574 (~54%) reported an injury that kept them from participation on one or more occasions.
- Of those 574, 262 (~46%) report a knee injury (more than any other type of injury by far)
- Of those 262, 36 (~14%) specifically mention the PCL in their description of their injury. This does not count all the people (20) who said they had injured their knee ligaments but were not specific as to which ligaments, or the many others who said they had injured their knee in some unspecified manner.
Can we do anything to prevent them? I'll save that for another post.