The PCL is about two inches long and connects the femur to the tibia at the back of the knee. It limits the backward or posterior motion of the tibia (shinbone). Twisting or overextending the knee can cause the PCL to tear, leaving the knee unstable and potentially unable to support a person's full body weight. The PCL is the strongest ligament in the knee, and tears often are associated with traumatic injuries rather than sports injuries. PCL tears can happen when the knee is violently forced backward or when the front of the shin is hit hard, for example when the knee strikes the dashboard during a car accident.
Since PCL tears usually result from a violent blow to the knee, they are often accompanied by injuries to other knee ligaments. Although rare, PCL tears can occur when playing rugby, football or other contact sports.
Our Approach to PCL Tear
UCSF is committed to helping patients with tears of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) 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 physicians trained in sports medicine, physical therapists and athletic trainers. These specialists work together to tailor a treatment plan to each patient's needs and goals.
We generally treat simple PCL tears with physical rehabilitation. UCSF offers the full range of physical therapies, including exercise regimens, functional activities and neuromuscular reeducation, in addition to providing information and instruction. If the injury is 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.