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Redmond Regional Medical Center
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Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

Definition

The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is connective tissue located within the knee. The PCL connects the thighbone to the shinbone. This connection keeps the shinbone from moving too far backward, stabilizing the knee.

Posterior Cruciate Ligament
si55550644 97870 1 Posterior Cruciate Ligament
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Causes

The PCL ligament can become strained or torn when a strong force is applied to it. This force can occur during sports or other high-stress activity.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of injuring the PCL include:

  • Sports injury
  • Motor vehicle accident
  • Fall on a bent knee
  • Strong force to the leg immediately below the kneecap
  • Knee dislocation

Symptoms

A PCL tear may cause:

  • Pain and swelling in the knee
  • Soreness in the area behind the knee
  • Weakness or instability in the knee
  • Difficulty walking
  • Pain when moving the knee

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Images may need to be taken of the internal structure of your knee. This can be done with:

Ligament sprains are graded according to their severity:

  • Grade 1—mild ligament damage
  • Grade 2—partial tearing of the ligament
  • Grade 3—complete tearing of the ligament

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Recovery time ranges depending on the grade of your injury. Treatment steps may include:

Supportive Care

Your ligament will need time to heal. RICE is often the main part of treatment:

  • Rest—Activities may need to be restricted at first. Normal activities will be gradually reintroduced.
  • Ice—Ice therapy may help relieve swelling. Heat or cold may be recommended throughout recovery if they provide benefits.
  • Compression—Used for a limited time, compression bandages can provide gentle pressure to help move fluids out of the area.
  • Elevation—Keeping the area elevated can help fluids drain out or prevent fluids from building up.

Your doctor may recommend a knee brace to stabilize the knee, and crutches to keep extra weight off your leg.

Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be advised to reduce pain.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist will assess your knee. An exercise program will be created to help recovery and to strengthen the muscles.

Surgery

Surgery may be needed to fully restore function of the knee. The decision to have surgery should be made after discussion with your doctor about your athletic needs, age, and associated factors.

Prevention

Some steps that may help decrease your chance of getting a PCL injury include:

  • Protect your knees by doing regular strengthening exercises for your thighs.
  • Maintain proper technique when exercising or playing sports.

Revision Information

  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine

    http://www.sportsmed.org

  • OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

    http://orthoinfo.org

  • Canadian Orthopaedic Association

    http://www.coa-aco.org

  • Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation

    http://www.canorth.org

  • Derry S, Moore RA, Gaskell H, McIntyre M, Wiffen PJ. Topical NSAIDs for acute musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;(6):CD007402.

  • Knee sprains and meniscal injuries. Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries%5Fpoisoning/fractures%5Fdislocations%5Fand%5Fsprains/knee%5Fsprains%5Fand%5Fmeniscal%5Finjuries.html. Accessed March 11, 2016.

  • Ligament injuries to the knee. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/orthopaedic%5Fdisorders/ligament%5Finjuries%5Fto%5Fthe%5Fknee%5F85,P00926/. Accessed March 11, 2016.

  • Posterior cruciate ligament injuries. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00420. Updated February 2009. Accessed March 11, 2016.

  • 10/26/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. Redmond Regional Medical Center does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.