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With posterolateral corner damage, will I be able to compete in sports again?

Physical Therapy in Grapevine for Knee

Q: I was in a car accident and ended up with an uncommon knee injury called a posterolateral corner. I like to play competitive sports. Will I be able to get back to these activities once this heals up?

A: The PLC is in the knee where two ligaments and one tendon meet. Posterior refers to the back side of the knee joint. Lateral tells us the affected area is to the side. So we are talking about the posterolateral (side of the knee toward the back) area where the lateral collateral ligament, popliteofibular ligament (PFL), and the tendon of the popliteus muscle all meet.

These soft tissue structures at the posterolateral corner help keep the tibia (shin bone) from sliding backwards under the femur (thigh bone). When the posterolateral corner is injured, knee instability can develop. Injuries in this area occur most often as a result of a car accident, during sports play, or from a work injury.

Return to work (especially if it involves manual labor) and/or return to sports (competitive or recreational) is possible with adequate treatment. Surgery to reconstruct the posterolateral corner is the usual treatment. The technique used varies from surgeon to surgeon and no one method has proven to be the best.

Damage to the soft tissue structures that make up the posterolateral corner can mean the tibia (lower leg bone) slides and shifts too far from side-to-side and front-to-back. The goal of treatment is to restore the natural alignment and stability of the knee. Many patients are able to get back to full sports participation. Be sure and let your surgeon know of your personal sports goals and plans. Treatment (including rehab) may vary slightly given this information.

Reference: Clifford G. Rios, MD, et al. Posterolateral Corner Reconstruction of the Knee. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. August 2010. Vol. 38. No. 8. Pp. 1564-1574.