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ACL and PCL Injuries of the Knee

Anterior and Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries


Updated May 16, 2014

Mature woman in gym holding knee, eyes closed, overhead view
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ACL and PCL Injuries

The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and the PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) are the two major ligaments in the knee that work together to provide stability in the knee. They cross each other and form an 'X' which allows the knee to flex and extend without side to side movement.

What Is an ACL Injury?

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of four major ligaments that provide stability to the knee joint. ACL injuries are most common during sports that require a sudden change of direction, sudden, abrupt stops and starts and lots of jumping. The most common treatment for a torn ACL is arthroscopic surgery and ACL reconstruction.

Injuries to these cruciate ligaments of the knee are typically sprains. The ACL is most often stretched, or torn by a sudden twisting motion while the feet remain planted.

ACL and PCL Injuries Causes

ACL injuries are common in sports that involve sudden changes of direction, such as football, and soccer. Most are non-contact injuries that occur during sudden twisting motion (for example, when the feet are planted one way and the knees are turned another way) or when landing from a jump.

ACL injuries, including partial or complete tears, can occur when an athlete changes direction rapidly, twists without moving the feet, slows down abruptly, or misses a landing from a jump. This type of movement may cause the ACL to stretch to the point of tearing.

The degree of ACL injury may determine the type of treatment recommended.

PCL injuries are likely with impacts to the front of the knee, or from hyper-extending the knee. The PCL can also be injured by a direct impact from the outside of the knee joint, such as those that occur during soccer or football. Both the ACL and PCL can be injured or torn by a sudden twisting of the knee joint.

Cruciate ligament injuries don't always cause pain, but typically a loud popping sound can be heard at the time of the injury.

ACL and PCL Injury Treatment

Incomplete ACL and PCL tears are treated conservatively to allow the body to hear on its own. Rest, ice, compression and elevation are the immediate treatment. Anti-inflammatory medications and Nsaids can help reduce pain. Physical therapy is often recommended to regain and build muscle strength over time.

For a complete tear of the ACL Arthroscopic surgery and ACL Reconstruction is usually performed.

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  7. ACL and PCL Injuries of the Knee - Causes & Treatment

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