Cruciate ligament injury - aftercare; PCL injury - aftercare; Knee injury - posterior cruciate ligament
A ligament is a band of tissue that connects a bone to another bone. The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is located inside your knee joint and connects the bones of your upper and lower leg.
A PCL injury occurs when the ligament is stretched or torn. A partial PCL tear occurs when only part of the ligament is torn. A complete PCL tear occurs when the entire ligament is torn into two pieces or detaches from the bone.
The PCL is one of several ligaments that keep your knee stable. The PCL helps keep your leg bones in place and allows your knee to move back and forth. It is the strongest ligament in the knee. PCL tears often occur as a result of a severe knee injury.
Injuring the PCL takes a lot of force. It can occur if you:
PCL injuries commonly occur with other knee ligament and meniscus damage, including injuries to the nerves and blood vessels. These are usually a result of serious knee trauma and should be seen by a specialist promptly. Skiers and people who play basketball, football, or soccer are more likely to have this type of injury.
With a PCL injury, you may have:
After examining your knee, your health care provider may order these imaging tests:
If you have a PCL injury, you may need:
If you have a severe injury, such as a knee dislocation when more than one ligament is torn, you will need knee surgery to repair the joint. For milder injuries, you may not need surgery. A lot of people can live and function normally with a torn PCL. However, if you are younger, having a torn PCL and instability of your knee may lead to arthritis as you age. Talk with your provider about the best treatment for you.
Follow R.I.C.E. to help reduce pain and swelling:
You can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) to reduce pain and swelling. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) helps with pain, but not swelling. You can buy these pain medicines at the store.
If you have surgery to repair (reconstruct) your PCL:
If you do not have surgery to repair (reconstruct) your PCL:
Contact your provider if:
If you have surgery, contact your surgeon if you have:
Petrigliano FA, Vellios EE, Montgomery SR, Johnson JS, McAllister DR. Posterior cruciate ligament injuries. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee, Drez, & Miller's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 100.
Sheng A, Splittgerber L. Posterior cruciate ligament sprain. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 76.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 4/24/2023
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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