The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) connects the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shinbone). Located deep inside the knee and behind the joint, it's about 2 inches long and works to limit backward motion of the tibia. Violently twisting or overextending the knee can cause the PCL to tear, leaving the knee unstable and potentially unable to support the person's weight. As the knee's strongest ligament, the PCL usually won't tear unless there's a powerful blow to the knee, such as when the shin or knee strikes the dashboard during a car accident. Because of this association with a physically traumatic event, PCL tears are often accompanied by injuries to other knee ligaments. Some people tear the PCL when playing rugby, football or other contact sports, but this is relatively rare.
Our Approach to PCL Tears
UCSF is committed to helping patients with PCL tears return to the highest level of activity possible, whether that means a daily walk or reporting for practice with the NFL. Our team includes orthopedic surgeons, primary care sports medicine doctors, physical therapists and athletic trainers. These specialists work together to tailor a treatment plan to each patient's needs and goals.
We treat most simple PCL tears with physical therapy and, if helpful, a brace. In addition to providing information and education on the injury, UCSF offers the full range of physical therapies, including specifically designed exercise regimens, functional activity training and neuromuscular reeducation (techniques that condition the area to move normally again).
If the injury is severe or accompanied by damage to other knee ligaments, we may recommend reconstructive surgery.
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UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.