Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

What is Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injury?

An injury to the Posterior Cruciate Ligament is one that affects a thick band of tissue found in the back of the knee connecting the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia). Often associated with contact sports or a severe impact or strain to a flexed knee, it’s usually coupled with related knee injuries such as ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear.

Causes of PCL Injuries

PCL injuries can be caused by a hard hit to a bent knee, as would be the case while sitting in a car. It can also be caused by hard blow while the knee is flexed while walking, running, or jogging. A severe PCL injury may also cause part of an adjacent bone to break. Osteoarthritis sometimes develops in the knee where a PCL injury occurs.

What are the Symptoms of Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injury?

  • Knee pain (either sharp or persistent)
  • Swelling around the affected area
  • Instability or wobbling while standing
  • Difficulty placing full weight on the knee while walking

How is Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injury Treated?

A device called an arthrometer may be used to determine ligament tightness. Image testing will confirm any damage to the ligament and the extent of the damage. Treatment usually involves the PRICE method:

  • Protection of the affected knee additional injuries
  • Rest to allow for healing of the ligament
  • Ice applications to reduce inflammation
  • Compression of the knee to minimize movement
  • Elevation of the knee as much as possible to facilitate healing

The posterior cruciate ligament is important because it prevents the knee from moving too far backwards. Injury can make it difficult to maintain stability. Due to the location of this ligament, damage is often less severe than an ACL tear or strain and oftentimes heals on its own with little or no significant treatment other than temporary modification of activities.

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Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
August 29, 2017
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