First Time User? Enroll now.
COVID-19: Vaccine information, visitor restrictions, testing, treatment, and additional resources
Home > Health Library > Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injury
A PCL injury is a sprain or tear of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). The PCL is a band of tissue that crosses inside the center of the knee joint. It connects your thighbone to the bone of your lower leg. The PCL keeps your knee stable when it moves forward or backward.
A direct blow to the knee can injure your PCL. For example, the PCL can be injured in a car crash when your bent knee hits the dashboard. You can also hurt your PCL during sports, such as football, soccer, or skiing. Or you can hurt it while doing other activities if you fall on your bent knee with your foot or toes bent downward or if the front of your knee is hit.
A PCL injury can also happen if you stretch or straighten your knee beyond its normal limits (hyperextend the knee).
An injury to your PCL may cause:
The doctor will examine you and ask questions about your past health. He or she will also ask how you injured your knee and about your symptoms at the time you injured it.
Your doctor will carefully examine your knee and leg. He or she will look and feel to see if there is swelling and may gently push on certain places to find spots that are most tender. Then your doctor will move your knee and leg in certain ways to help check for stability. He or she will also look at the rest of your leg to make sure that blood is flowing, the leg works well, and there are no other injuries above or below the knee.
You may have some tests, such as an X-ray or an MRI.
Most PCL injuries can be treated at home with:
Your doctor may suggest that you use crutches to limit how much weight you put on your leg. He or she may also suggest that you wear a brace that protects and supports the knee but allows for some movement.
You may need to be less active for a while. But doing gentle stretching and range-of-motion exercises as advised by your doctor will help you heal.
A severe tear may need surgery. But this usually isn't done unless you also injure other parts of your knee, such as the medial collateral ligament (MCL) or meniscus.
Your treatment will depend on how severe your injury is and whether other parts of your knee are injured.
These injuries may only need home treatment along with using crutches for a short time and wearing a hinged knee brace. Many people are able to be active again after about 4 to 6 months.
These injuries may require using crutches and wearing a hinged knee brace. In some cases, surgery may be needed. Many people are able to be active again after about 9 months.
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to increase range of motion and strengthen your muscles.
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicinePatrick J. McMahon MD - Orthopedic Surgery
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Patrick J. McMahon MD - Orthopedic Surgery
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.