PCL Injuries – What You Need to Know

physical therapy for ligament tearThe PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) sits behind the ACL and prevents the shinbone from sliding too far backward. While PCL injuries can comprise up to 20 percent of ligament injuries, they are often left undiagnosed. ACL injuries are much more common, especially in athletes.

What Causes PCL Tears?

The PCL is usually injured when the knee is bent, and the shin is forcefully pushed backward. This type of injury is commonly referred to as a “dashboard injury” because it often occurs in a car crash when someone strikes their shins off of the dashboard. It can also happen when a person falls on the front of their knee while it is bent all the way back.

PCL tears commonly occur in conjunction with other knee injuries, including damage to other ligaments, meniscus tears, and cartilage damage. The PCL can also be torn when the knee is dislocated.

Symptoms of a PCL Tear

Patients who have experienced a PCL tear may feel as if their knee has popped or given out. Knee pain, swelling, and decreased range of motion are also common with this type of injury. Knee instability is less common with a PCL tear than with other ligament tears. If a patient does exhibit instability of the knee, surgery may be required.


MRIs are helpful when it comes to identifying the tear, the severity of the injury, and whether or not there is damage to other ligaments or cartilage in the joint. The injury is diagnosed on a graded scale:

  • Grade I – A partial tear of the PCL
  • Grade II – An isolated, complete tear
  • Grade III – A PCL year with associated damage to other ligaments

When you experience a ligament injury, come to Woodbridge Radiology for diagnostic imaging in New Jersey. Call us at 732-326-1515 or schedule your appointment online.