The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is the strongest ligament in the knee joint. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bone to bone. The posterior cruciate ligament runs along the back of the knee joint from the bottom of the thighbone to the top of the lower leg bone.

A posterior cruciate ligament injury occurs when there is partial or complete tearing of any part of the posterior cruciate ligament. If a ligament is torn, an individual can experience pain, swelling and difficulty walking.

The posterior cruciate ligament is the least commonly injured ligament in the knee.



Signs and symptoms of a posterior cruciate ligament injury may include:

·         Pain in the knee joint

·         Swelling in the knee

·         Stiffness in the knee joint

·         Instability in the knee joint

·         Tenderness in the knee

·         Difficulty walking



The posterior cruciate ligament is usually injured due to overextending the knee such as from landing uneasily after jumping, direct blows just below the knee or falling on a bent knee. The most common factors that cause tearing include:

·         Dashboard injury: Smashing the knee against a dashboard during a car accident

·         Participation in contact sports: Falling on a bent knee or direct blows to the knee may occur in athletes who participate in sports such as football and soccer where injuries to the knee are common.  


Risk factors

Factors that can increase the risk of a posterior cruciate ligament injury include:

  • Being male (Men are more likely than are women to injure their posterior cruciate ligament)
  • Participation in contact sports (football, soccer, baseball, skiing)



A possible complication that can arise from injury to the posterior cruciate ligament is damage to other structures within the knee. Depending on the severity of an individual’s injury, additional structure damages can cause long term knee pain and instability. In addition, the risk for eventually developing arthritis in the affected knee is higher.



Treatment options for a posterior cruciate ligament injury typically depend on the overall extent of the injury and the individual’s lifestyle. Some treatment options may include:

  • Applying ice to the affected area
  • Using a brace or crutches to protect the knee
  • Elevating the joint (above the level of the heart)
  • Taking over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen (Aleve) to help relieve pain and minimize swelling.
  • Going to physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in the knee and regain range of motion
  • Joint aspiration: A procedure that uses a syringe to remove fluid from the joint if swelling becomes significant and limits an individual’s range of motion.
  • In more severe cases, surgery is recommended to reconstruct the ligament



A few recommendations that can help minimize the risk of a knee ligament injury include:

  • Using proper foot attire/gear equipment when involved in physical activities
  • Stretching the muscles on a regular basis to maintain good range of motion in the joints
  • Using caution when participating in contact sports such as football and soccer