Sports Medicine

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 110–131 | Cite as

Injuries to the Posterior Cruciate Ligament of the Knee

  • Pekka Kannus
  • John Bergfeld
  • Markku Järvinen
  • Robert J. Johnson
  • Malcolm Pope
  • Per Renström
  • Kazunori Yasuda
Injury Clinic

Summary

The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is the strongest ligament about the knee and is approximately twice as strong as the anterior cruciate ligament. Its main function is to prevent the posterior dislocation of the tibia in relation to the femur, providing 95% of the strength to resist the tibial posterior displacement. Along with the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) the PCL controls the passive ‘screw home’ mechanism of the knee in terminal knee extension. It also provides mechanical support for the collateral ligaments during valgus or varus stress of the knee.

PCL ruptures are uncommon apparently due to its strong fibre structure. The most frequent injury mechanism in isolated PCL tears is a direct blow on the anterior tibia with the knee flexed thus driving the tibia posteriorly. Automobile accidents (in which the knee hits the dashboard) and soccer injuries (in which an athlete receives a blow to the anterior surface of the tibia during knee flexion) characteristically produce this type of injury. In other PCL injury mechanisms (hyperextension, hyperflexion or rotational injuries with associated valgum/varum stress), other knee structures are also often damaged.

The most characteristic diagnostic finding in a knee with a PCL rupture is the ‘posterior sag sign’ meaning the apparent disappearance of the tibial tubercle in lateral inspection when the knee is flexed 90°. This is due to gravity-assisted posterior displacement of the tibia in relation to the femur. A positive posterior drawer test performed at 90° of flexion and a knee hyperextension sign are sensitive but nonspecific tests. False negative findings are frequent, especially in acute cases. If necessary, the clinical diagnosis of the PCL tear can be verified by magnetic resonance imaging, examination under anaesthesia, arthroscopy, or a combination of these modalities.

If a PCL avulsion fragment has been dislocated, surgical treatment is recommended. In isolated, complete midsubstance tears of the PCL the majority of the recent studies recommend conservative treatment, since abnormal residual posterior laxity in most of these knees is consistent with functional stability and minimal symptoms. This has been the case even in athletes. In isolated PCL tears, the outcome seems to depend more on the muscular (quadriceps) status of the knee than on the amount of residual posterior laxity. Therefore, the conservative treatment protocol emphasises intensive quadriceps exercises, and only a short (under 2 weeks) immobilisation period followed by early controlled activities and early weightbearing.

According to the current concept, acute phase surgery (primary PCL repair with augmentation, or primary PCL reconstruction) is indicated in fresh injuries of the PCL associated with disruptions of other major ligaments or capsular structures. Simultaneously with the PCL surgery, all the other damaged structures should also be repaired. Even with surgery, however, the prognosis is poorer than in isolated PCL tears. In chronic PCL insufficiency a reconstruction with bone-patella tendon-bone autograft or allograft can be considered, if the patient suffers from repeated giving way symptoms which are not resolved by rehabilitation.

Keywords

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Cruciate Ligament Posterior Cruciate Ligament Medial Collateral Ligament Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injury 

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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pekka Kannus
    • 1
    • 2
  • John Bergfeld
    • 4
  • Markku Järvinen
    • 2
    • 3
  • Robert J. Johnson
    • 1
  • Malcolm Pope
    • 1
  • Per Renström
    • 1
  • Kazunori Yasuda
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.McClure Musculoskeletal Research Center, Department of Orthopaedics and RehabilitationUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  2. 2.Tampere Research Station of Sports MedicineThe UKK-Institute for Health Promotion ResearchTampereFinland
  3. 3.Department of Surgery, Section of OrthopaedicsUniversity Central HospitalTampereFinland
  4. 4.Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Section of Sports MedicineThe Cleveland Clinic FoundationClevelandUSA
  5. 5.Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Section of Knee Joint Surgery and Sports Medicine, School of MedicineHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan

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