A posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury is much less common than injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), but it is a very difficult injury to overcome. Many of these injuries occur in motor vehicle accidents, but a PCL injury of the knee can occur in sports.

What is the PCL, and what does it do?

The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is one of the two cruciate ligaments of the knee. It resides just behind the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the center of the knee. It is responsible for preventing the tibia (shin bone) from being displaced behind the femur (thigh bone).

An MRI showing a PCL injury of the knee

Treatment of a PCL injury of the knee

Treatment depends on the nature of the entire injury. Occasionally, isolated injuries to the PCL can be treated nonoperatively. In this situation, aggressive rehabilitation, especially emphasizing quadriceps strengthening, is enough to return the athlete back to sports. Combined injuries, such as ACL and PCL injuries, or PCL and posterolateral corner injuries, often require surgical treatment.

Surgery for a PCL injury of the knee

Occasionally surgery involves repair of the ligament when it has pulled a piece of bone off the ligament attachment. As I discuss in this video, surgery more often involves reconstruction of the ligament, meaning that tissue from the athlete’s knee or a cadaver knee is used to make a new PCL.

Also read:
Arthroscopic knee surgery: What you need to know
MCL tear of the knee: Injury, diagnosis, treatment

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