Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries

Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injuries

What is it?

The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is located in the back of the knee and helps connect the thighbone to the shinbone. Injuries to the PCL usually are the result of a forceful impact that causes the leg to move in an unusual manner.

Causes, Symptoms and Risk Factors

Although relatively uncommon, PCL injuries typically occur during contact or extreme sports or as the result of an accident or mishap. They may be combined with other injuries in the joint, such as damage to other ligaments, bone and/or cartilage.

Symptoms of a PCL injury include:

  • Pain in the knee
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • A feeling of instability or weakness in the knee joint


A doctor will diagnose a PCL injury by examining the knee, checking its stability and reviewing symptoms and medical history. The doctor may also conduct imaging tests, such as X-rays—which cannot identify an injury specifically to the PCL, but can show damage in the area associated with a PCL injury - or an MRI - which can show damage to the PCL itself.


If just the PCL itself is injured, it may heal without surgery. Non-surgical treatments for minor PCL injuries include:

  • Resting the leg
  • Icing the knee
  • Compressing the knee by wrapping it with an elastic bandage
  • Elevating the leg above heart level
  • Immobilizing the knee
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medication
  • Physical therapy
The doctor may recommend surgery in more severe PCL injuries or injuries to the knee that includes damage to the PCL. During this procedure, a surgeon will use an arthroscope to rebuild the PCL.

Have Questions?

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Orthopaedic Specialists

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