Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), one of four major ligaments of the knee are situated at the back of the knee. It connects the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia). The PCL limits the backward motion of the shinbone.
PCL injuries are less common than ACL injuries. Cartilage injuries, bone bruises, and ligament injuries often occur in combination with PCL injuries. Injuries to the PCL can be graded as I, II or III depending on the severity of injury. In grade I the ligament is mildly damaged and slightly stretched, but the knee joint is stable. In grade II there is partial tear of the ligament. In grade III there is complete tear of the ligament and the knee joint may be unstable.
The PCL is usually injured by a direct impact, such as in an automobile accident when the bent knee forcefully strikes the dashboard. In sports, it can occur when an athlete falls to the ground with a bent knee. Twisting injury or overextending the knee can cause the PCL to tear.
Diagnosis of a PCL tear is made based on symptoms, medical history, and by performing a physical examination of the knee. Other diagnostic tests such as X-rays and MRI scan may be ordered.
Treatment options may include non-surgical and surgical treatment. Non-surgical treatment consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE protocol); all assist in controlling pain and swelling. Physical therapy may be recommended to improve knee motion and strength. A knee brace may be needed, and crutches may be recommended.
Surgery is performed less frequently than with ACL ruptures, and the improvement in function is probably not as marked as is seen in ACL reconstruction. It is considered in patients with more severe injuries – particularly multi-ligament injuries.