What is posterior cruciate ligament (pcl) injury?

Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injury

What are the symptoms of a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury?

An injury to your PCL may cause swelling, pain, tenderness, and stiffness around the knee. Several hours after the injury, your pain may get worse. And it might be harder to move your knee. You may also have bruising and an unstable feeling, like the knee may give out.

How is a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury treated?

Your treatment will depend on how severe your injury is and whether other parts of your knee are injured.

  • Mild or grade 1 and moderate or grade 2 injuries. These 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.
  • Severe or grade 3 injuries. These may require using crutches and wearing a hinged knee brace. Many people are able to be active again after about 9 months.

    A severe tear may need surgery. But this usually isn't done unless you also injure other parts of your knee, such as the MCL or meniscus.

Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to increase range of motion and strengthen your muscles.

How is a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury diagnosed?

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and past health and examine your knee and leg. For example, the doctor will check for swelling, how well the leg works, and for other injuries above or below the knee. You may have tests, such as an X-ray or an MRI.

How can you care for yourself when you have a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury?

  • Put ice or a cold pack on your knee for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours (when you're awake) for the first 3 days after your injury or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Prop up your leg on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down. Do this for about 3 days after your injury. Try to keep your knee above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Take anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce pain and swelling. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Follow instructions about how much weight you can put on your leg and how to walk with crutches, if your doctor recommends them.
  • Wear a brace, if your doctor recommends it, to protect and support your knee while it heals. Wear it as directed.
  • Do stretches or strength exercises as your doctor suggests.

What is a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury?

A posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury is a sprain or tear of the PCL, a knee ligament. The PCL is a band of tissue that keeps your knee stable when it moves forward or backward. It can be injured by a direct blow, falling on your bent knee, or overstretching (hyperextending) your knee.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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