Background: While isolated posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injuries are fairly common amongst athletes, there is still no established rule as to how to best treat such an injury, and indeed there is much controversy on whether such and injury should be treated surgically or conservatively with physical therapy.
Case Description: The patient who was the inspiration for this research was a young male athlete who presented with knee pain and instability after a fall during a soccer game. He wished to proceed conservatively as long as such a course of treatment would afford the ability to return to sport without sacrificing the future function of his knee.
Discussion: Studies of both conservative and surgical treatment of isolated PCL injury describe good results, although most sources seem to suggest that passive stability of a knee is more greatly improved with surgical intervention as compared to conservative treatment. However, there has been shown to be no significant relationship between PCL laxity and satisfaction with or subjective function of the knee.
Conclusion: Considering the financial burden of orthopaedic surgeries and the generally good outcomes of conservative treatment, even for return to the highest levels of competitive sports, most isolated PCL injuries should be treated conservatively at least at the outset of treatment – surgical intervention should be considered if nonsurgical treatment is ineffective or does not provide the desired result.
Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
Level of Degree
Tiffany M. Enache
posterior cruciate ligament, PCL, surgery, surgical, rehabilitation, conservative, physical therapy, injury
Malin, Tristan S.. "Surgical Reconstruction vs. Conservative Rehabilitation of Isolated Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injury: Relevance to Long-term Function and Return to Sport." (2018). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/dpt/137