Posterior cruciate ligament injury
Posterior cruciate ligament injury
Posterior cruciate ligament injury happens far less often than does injury to the knee's better known counterpart, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The posterior cruciate ligament and ACL help to hold your knee together. If either ligament is torn, you may experience pain, swelling and a feeling of instability.
Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that attach one bone to another. The cruciate (KROO-she-ate) ligaments connect the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia). The anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments form an "X" in the center of the knee.
While a posterior cruciate ligament injury generally causes less pain, disability and knee instability than does an ACL tear, it can still sideline you for several weeks or months.
Posterior cruciate ligament
Two of the four ligaments that connect the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia) are the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The PCL and ACL cross one ...
Signs and symptoms of a posterior cruciate ligament injury may include:
Signs and symptoms may be mild or vague, and you might not even notice anything wrong. Over time, the pain may worsen and your knee may feel more unstable. If other parts of the knee are affected, your signs and symptoms will likely be more severe.
The posterior cruciate ligament can tear if your shinbone is hit hard just below the knee, or if you fall on a bent knee. These injuries are most common during:
Other causes include bending or extending your knee past its normal position and getting hit on the side of the knee while your leg is twisted.
Factors that may increase your risk of experiencing a posterior cruciate ligament injury include:
In many cases, other structures within the knee — including other ligaments or cartilage — also are damaged when you experience a posterior cruciate ligament injury. Depending on how many of these structures were damaged, you may experience some long-term knee pain and instability. You may also be at higher risk of eventually developing arthritis in your affected knee.
Preparing for your appointment
If your knee injury is severe, you may need to seek emergency medical care. In some cases, however, you may initially consult your family physician. He or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in knee injuries or sports medicine.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
During the physical exam, your doctor may press on your knee to feel for injury, looseness or fluid in the joint from bleeding. He or she may move your knee, leg or foot in different directions and ask you to stand and walk to see if your knee stays in proper position. Your doctor will compare your injured leg with the healthy one to look for any sagging or abnormal movement in the knee or shinbone.
In some cases, your doctor may suggest one or more of the following imaging tests:
Treatments and drugs
Treatment depends on the extent of your injury and whether it just happened or if you've had it for a while. In most cases, surgery isn't required.
Surgery and other procedures
Lifestyle and home remedies
Mild to moderate joint injuries often are helped by following the R.I.C.E. model — rest, ice, compression and elevation.
Last Updated: 2011-03-19
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