Posterior cruciate ligament injuries associated with military survival swim training

Michael S. Crowell, John S. Mason, Matthew A. Posner, Chad A. Haley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives: Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injuries are relatively common injuries associated with athletic activities and high-energy trauma. Posterolateral corner (PLC) injuries frequently accompany injury to the PCL. Diagnosis can be challenging and requires a comprehensive history and physical examination. Patients frequently report vague, nonspecific symptoms and the mechanism of injury is often useful in localizing injured structures. Two of the more common mechanisms for PCL injury include a direct blow to the proximal anterior tibia with the knee flexed, as well as a significant knee hyperextension injury. With a PCL tear, patients rarely describe an audible “pop” that is commonly reported in ACL injuries. On physical exam, a frequent finding in PCL tears is a loss of 10 to 20° of knee flexion. Although the most common clinical tests for PCL tears include the posterior drawer test, the posterior sag sign, and the quadriceps active test, there is a lack of high-quality diagnostic accuracy studies. Materials and Methods: Two cases of U.S. Military Academy Cadets who sustained PCL injuries while removing combat boots during military survival swim training are presented. The results of the clinical examination are accompanied by magnetic resonance imaging results and intraoperative arthroscopic images to highlight key findings. Results: Both patients were evaluated and diagnosed with PCL injures within 10 days of their injuries. Each reported feeling/hearing a “pop,” which is atypical in PCL tears. Both patients demonstrated a lack of active and passive knee flexion, which is a commonly reported impairment. One patient was managed nonsurgically with physical therapy and eventually returned to full duty without limitations 9 months after his injury. The other patient, who sustained a combined PCL–PLC injury, underwent a PCL reconstruction and PLC repair and reconstruction 8 weeks after his injury. He returned all training, with the exception of contact/collision sports, 9 months after surgery. Both patient’s rehabilitation programs consisted of a progression of exercises to improve range of motion, muscle strength/endurance, motor control, and muscular power. Conclusion: Military and sports medicine professionals should be aware of the potential for PCL injury with this unusual, and previously unreported, mechanism of injury during survival swim training. Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment is essential to prevent long-term disability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1924-e1928
JournalMilitary medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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