The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is located in the back of the knee. It works as one of four core muscles in the knee to control excess movements of the knee joint.
Injuries to the PCL require a strong force. As compared to an ACL injury, an isolated PCL injury may involve swelling in the knee that subsides over a few days or weeks as opposed to intense pain.
Since PCL injuries usually result from high-force impacts, they are more common among athletes.
Some of the more common contact sports resulting in PCL injuries include:
PCL injuries occur less commonly in non-contact sports, such as:
In addition to athletic PCL injuries, these injuries also often occur following vehicle accidents or even the wear and tear of time.
When left untreated, PCL injuries can lead to further knee joint injuries.
If you tear your PCL and one or more of the other knee ligaments, you become completely disabled and symptoms intensify.
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Common symptoms of PCL injuries are strongest and most present immediately following a suspected tear, sprain, or strain.
PCL injury symptoms include:
To diagnose a PCL injury, your doctor will ask you a series of questions to gather your medical history. Your doctor will want to learn exactly how the injury occurred and if you have had similar injuries in the past.
After discussing your medical history, your doctor will begin a physical exam of the knee to assess the stability of your knee with a focus on the ligaments. Your doctor may apply force to your knee to observe the way in which it moves.
Based on these factors and your symptoms, your doctor may recommend more tests to diagnose a PCL injury, such as:
At UPMC Orthopaedic Care, we chose PCL injury treatments based on:
In general, treatment aims to:
Orthopaedic experts at UPMC offer both nonsurgical and surgical treatments for PCL injuries.
If you have not completely torn your PCL or experience a strain or minor sprain, nonsurgical methods can be very effective in managing this injury.
Common nonsurgical techniques for PCL injuries include:
If nonsurgical treatment methods prove ineffective, your doctor may recommend a surgical approach.
Surgery is a good option when knee injuries occur in conjunction with one another.
Surgical treatment of PCL injuries can involve:
Treatments for PCL injuries can be very effective strategies to preserve knee function and mobility. After a fall or force — and related pain and swelling — you should see your doctor to avoid complications associated with the PCL and the knee.
Following PCL surgery, you may have to avoid all weight bearing activities for a few months, depending on your symptoms and medical history. Rest and breaks from weight bearing activities are especially important for those hoping to return to physical activities.
Failure to follow doctors' orders of rest can lead to further difficulties and related complications.
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