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PCL tear

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is located in the back of the knee and connects the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia). It prevents the tibia from moving too far backward. 

The PCL is very strong, but a powerful force like a contact sports-related fall or motor vehicle accident, can rupture or tear it. Excessive tension, such as results from a dislocated knee, can also damage the PCL.

Within a few hours after a PCL injury, a person will often have a large amount of swelling, they will have difficulty walking and it may be painful to move the knee.

Marshfield Clinic physicians have expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of bone, ligament and tendon injuries including injuries to the PCL.


The type of PCL injury dictates the type of treatment that is needed. 


For minor PCL tears:

  • RICE - rest, ice, compression and elevation
  • Crutches
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce inflammation
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the quadriceps muscles and regain range of motion


The goal of PCL reconstruction surgery is to prevent instability and restore the function of the torn ligament. Surgery is typically performed arthroscopically (using a fiber optic instrument and small incision) and the ligament can be reconstructed using a variety of graft sources. Grafts commonly used to reconstruct the PCL include:

  • Patellar tendon autograft (autograft comes from the patient)
  • Hamstring tendon autograft
  • Quadriceps tendon autograft
  • Allograft (taken from a cadaver) patellar tendon or Achilles tendon

Preventive Tip

When playing sports, wear shoes designed for the surface you’re playing or running on, such as a track or tennis court. It will help prevent injury.

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If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

Call: 1-866-520-2510

(Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.)

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