Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injuries

Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injuries occur when the PCL, one of the bands of tissue that support the bones in the knee joint, stretch or tear. In a PCL injury, patients experience pain, swelling, and a feeling of instability in the knee.


A posterior cruciate ligament injury typically happens after the shinbone directly below the knee experiences a hard impact or from falling on a bent knee. PCL injuries are sometimes referred to as “dashboard injuries” because they often occur in car accidents when the knees of a driver or passenger are slammed against the dashboard upon impact. Participants in contact sports also experience PCL injuries from falling on a bent knee.


Symptoms of posterior cruciate ligament injuries are typically pain and swelling. PCL injuries may also result in a feeling of stiffness or instability in the knee. In some cases, the symptoms can be so mild that you will not realize an injury has occured. Over time, the symptoms will progress and require treatment.


Physicians will conduct a physical exam, feeling the knee for injury and looseness. You may be asked to move the knee, stand, and walk. X-rays or other imaging tools cannot indicate ligament damage, but can be used to identify other injuries like fractures.


Treatment for posterior cruciate ligament injuries depends on severity. Mild cases will often heal on their own with rest, knee bracing, and physical therapy. In advanced cases with cartilage damage and broken bones, surgery may be required.

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