PCL (Patella Cruciate Ligament) Injuries or Tear Causes and Treatment

PCL (Patella Cruciate Ligament) Injuries or Tear Causes and Treatment, TPL Orthopedics and Sports MedicinePosterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury occurs far less frequently than does injury to the more vulnerable component of the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). 

The posterior cruciate ligament and ACL attach the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shinbone). In case either ligament sustains a tear, it may lead to pain, inflammation, and a feeling of instability.

Board certified orthopedic surgeons Dr. Steven C. Thomas and Dr. Gregory T. Bigler provide procedures for the knee and shoulder to patients in Las Vegas, Nevada as well as Greater Pahrump, Bullhead City, Lake Havasu, Mesquite, NV, and surrounding communities. 




Mild to moderate pain in the knee can lead to a slight limp or challenges in walking.


Inflammation in the knee occurs rapidly, within a few hours of the injury.


The knee might feel loose, as it is going to give way.

In case there are no associated injuries to other areas of the knee, the signs and symptoms of a posterior cruciate ligament injury can be so imperceptible that the patient may not notice that anything is amiss. 

The pain might worsen over time and the knee might feel more unstable. In case other portions of the knee have also sustained injury, the patient’s signs and symptoms will potentially be more severe.



The posterior cruciate ligament may tear if the shinbone is hit hard right below the knee or if a person falls on a bent knee. These injuries commonly occur during:

Motor vehicle accidents

A “dashboard injury” develops when the driver’s or passenger’s bent knee hits against the dashboard, which pushes in the shinbone right below the knee and leads to a tear in the posterior cruciate ligament. 

Contact sports

Athletes who are engaged in sports, such as soccer and football, can sustain a tear in their posterior cruciate ligament when they fall on a bent knee with their foot pointed down. In such cases, the shinbone will hit the ground first and move backward. Being tacked when the knee is bent can also lead to this injury.


Risk factors

The most common risk factors for a PCL injury are being in an automobile crash and engaging in sports such as soccer and football. 



Many patients sustain injuries in other structures within the knee, including other ligaments or cartilage, at the time when they injure their posterior cruciate ligament. The patient may have long-term knee pain and instability depending on how many of these structures are damaged. They may also be at an increased risk of eventually developing arthritis in the affected knee.



The treatment will depend on the extent of the injury and whether the patient has had it for a while or it just occurred. Surgery is not necessary in most cases. 



Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as naproxen sodium (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.



A physical therapist can help the patient learn exercises that will make their knee stronger as well as enhance its function and stability. They may also require crutches or a knee brace during their rehab. 



In case the patient has a severe injury, particularly if it occurs in combination with other torn ligaments, damaged cartilage, or a fractured bone, they may need a surgical procedure to reconstruct the ligament. Surgery may also be an option if they have persistent episodes of knee instability despite suitable rehabilitation measures. 

The surgery can typically be undertaken arthroscopically by inserting a fiber-optic camera and long, narrow surgical equipment through several tiny incisions around the knee. 

Board certified orthopedic surgeons at the Thomas and Bigler Knee & Shoulder Institute receive patients from Las Vegas, Nevada as well as Greater Pahrump, Bullhead City, Lake Havasu, Mesquite, NV, and nearby areas for knee and shoulder procedures.

If you would like to schedule an appointment or learn more about the Knee and Shoulder Institute procedures & treatments performed by Las Vegas, Nevada board-certified surgeons Steven C. Thomas, MD and Gregory T. Bigler, MD. Contact the office today click here.

Serving patients from and around greater Las Vegas, Lake Havasu, Bullhead City, Mesquite, Pahrump, Nevada.

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