Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injuries

What causes a PCL injury?

The PCL is most frequently injured when the knee is bent and the shin is quickly forced backwards by a sudden impact. This can be caused by a sports injury or a fall or during a car accident when the shin is forcefully pushed into the dashboard.

What are the symptoms?

  • You may feel a sharp pain, followed by swelling, and this can lead to pain and difficulty when walking
  • A PCL injury can vary from a mild tear to a full rupture of the ligament which can affect its ability to support the knee joint, and is rarely an isolated injury

How is it diagnosed?

A diagnosis made during a medical examination can be backed up with X-rays and an MRI scan to show the extent of the damage.

How is it treated?

Non-operative treatment: the majority of PCL injuries are partial tears that are able to heal on their own, with the help of physiotherapy and possibly a PCL brace, but treatment will depend upon the symptoms that you experience and whether you’ve had a multiple ligament injury (where other ligaments were also injured).

Surgery: if, having tried non-operative treatment, you are still experiencing problems, you may need to have a PCL reconstruction to repair a severe tear. However, this is more commonly performed in patients who have had several injuries to their knee ligaments.

Important: This information is only a guideline to help you understand your treatment and what to expect. Everyone is different and your rehabilitation may be quicker or slower than other people’s. Please contact us for advice if you’re worried about any aspect of your health or recovery.


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