Key Points about Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injury

  • PCL injuries occur when the posterior cruciate ligament in the knee stretches or breaks, often from a direct trauma to a bent knee.
  • Symptoms of a PCL injury include pain and swelling in the knee, trouble walking, and a feeling of instability when bearing weight on the affected knee.
  • PCL injuries are generally treated with rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medicines, physical therapy and in some cases, surgery.
Common related conditions
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury Knee Arthritis Patellar Tendinitis Thigh or Calf Strain or Sprain

Overview

The posterior cruciate ligament is an important ligament in the knee that connects the shinbone to the thighbone.

PCL injuries are relatively rare. When they do occur, they are often accompanied by damage to other ligaments in the knee. PCL injuries often result from a trauma to the knee while the knee is bent, such as falling in a football tackle, or hitting your knee against the dashboard in a road accident.

Treatment for a PCL injury generally involves rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medicines, and physical therapy. Some cases may require surgery.

Call your doctor if you have persistent knee pain, swelling and trouble walking following a trauma to the knee.

PCL injury causes

PCL injuries occur when a blow to the knee causes the posterior cruciate ligament to stretch or break. Oftentimes, this stretching or breaking is caused by a trauma that hits the knee while in a bent position. Events that can cause this sort of trauma may include:

  • Falling on a bent knee
  • Hitting the knee on the dashboard of your car during a road accident

PCL injuries can also occur while playing sports such as baseball, soccer, football or skiing.

PCL injury risk factors

You may be at an increased risk of experiencing a PCL injury if you play sports such as:

  • Baseball
  • Soccer
  • Football
  • Skiing

PCL injury symptoms

The main symptom of a PCL injury is pain in the knee that may be mild or intense. This pain may be accompanied by:

  • Knee swelling
  • Struggling to walk
  • A feeling of instability or wobbling when bearing weight on the affected knee

PCL injury complications

A PCL injury may increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis in the affected knee.

PCL injury diagnosis

When assessing a possible PCL injury, your doctor will examine the affected knee and ask about the event that caused your injury. Your doctor may also order imaging tests such as an MRI scan or X-ray.

PCL injury treatment

After a PCL injury you should rest the affected leg, ice the injured area, and avoid activities that cause pain. Your doctor may also advise you to take over-the-counter anti-inflammatories to manage pain and swelling, and to follow a specific physical therapy and rehabilitation regimen.

If other ligaments in your knee are damaged in addition to the PCL, surgery may be required.

When to seek care

Call your doctor if you have persistent knee pain, swelling and trouble walking following a trauma to the knee.

Next Steps

Your doctor will assess your PCL injury and set up a treatment plan accordingly.