Why PCL tears in a crash are called “dashboard injuries”

Friday, May 5th, 2023

Knee injuries aren’t the most serious type of injury you can suffer in a crash. However, they can be extremely painful and disabling. One type of crash-related knee injury that can require surgery and potentially have long-term repercussions is a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury.

A PCL injury is sometimes called a “dashboard injury” because it can result from the force of the bent knee(s) striking the dashboard. These injuries aren’t as common as they used to be because of airbags. However, airbags don’t always deploy properly, and older vehicles don’t have them.

When a person’s knee strikes the dashboard forcefully in a crash, the tibia (often called the shinbone) is pushed back. That can tear the PCL. If the PCL is torn, in addition to being extremely painful, the knee (and therefore the entire leg) can become unstable. The same kind of injury can occur in football, soccer and any activity where the knee strikes the ground while it’s bent.

Why you may not notice a PCL injury immediately

If you’re dealing with other injuries, like head trauma, broken bones or lacerations after a crash, you may not even notice a PCL injury – particularly if you’re off your feet for a time. However, an untreated PCL tear can get even worse over time.

There are three stages of PCL tears. Stage II and Stage III tears may require surgery to repair, and a Stage III tear can affect other parts of the knee. A PCL injury can limit a person’s mobility for months and make them more prone to arthritis as they age.

If you suffered injuries in a crash caused by another driver, it’s important not to accept a settlement until you know the full extent of your injuries, what kind of treatment they’ll require and how they’ll affect your life and your ability to work. Experienced legal guidance can help you get the compensation you deserve for expenses and damages.