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Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury

  • Definition

    A posterior cruciate ligament injury is a partial or complete tearing or stretching of any part of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), which is located inside the knee joint.


    Alternative Names

    Cruciate ligament injury - posterior; PCL injury; Knee injury - posterior cruciate ligament (PCL); Hyperextended knee


    Considerations

    Your doctor will perform a physical examination to check for signs of PCL injury. This includes moving the knee joint in various ways.

    Your doctor may also check for the presence of fluid in the knee joint. This test may show joint bleeding.

    PCL injury may be seen using the following tests:

    • Knee MRI
    • Knee joint x-ray

    Causes

    The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is the strongest ligament in the knee. It extends from the top-rear surface of the tibia (bone between the knee and ankle) to the bottom-front surface of the femur (bone that extends from the pelvis to the knee).

    The ligament prevents the knee joint from posterior instability. That means it prevents the tibia from moving too much and going behind the femur.

    The PCL is usually injured by overextending the knee (hyperextension). This can happen if you land awkwardly after jumping. The PCL can also become injured from a direct blow to the flexed knee, such as smashing your knee in a car accident (called "dashboard knee") or falling hard on a bent knee.

    Most PCL injuries occur with other ligament injuries and severe knee trauma. This injury usually occur with a knee dislocation with has a high chance of nerve and vessel injuries. If you suspect PCL injury, it is important to be seen by a medical professional immediately.