Performing the Test: Have the patient's involved limb in a position of 45 degrees hip flexion and 90 degrees of knee flexion. Look for the tibia to "sag" compared to the position of the femur. The examiner should then sit on the foot of the affected limb to stabilize. Next, have the patient actively contract their quad muscle. A positive test occurs if the patient's tibia shifts forward.
Diagnostic Accuracy: Sensitivity: .54; Specificity: .97; +LR: 18; -LR: .47 ("The accuracy of the clinical examination in the setting of posterior cruciate ligament injuries").
Importance of Test: The posterior cruciate ligament is responsible for resisting against excessive posterior translation of the tibia on the femur, due to its attachments on posteriorly on the tibial plateau and anteriorly on the lateral side of the medial femoral condyle ("Neumann 536"). In the position of 45 degrees of hip flexion and 90 degrees of knee flexion, gravity places a force on the tibia that pulls the tibia posteriorly, but is blocked by an intact PCL. In the absence of a PCL, the tibia appears to "sag." When the quad contracts, an anterior translation of the tibia on the femur occurs due to the attachments of the quadriceps muscles. The most common mechanism for PCL injury is posterior translation at 90 degrees of knee flexion. While the PCL can be ruptured through hyperextension and hyperflexion as well, it is unlikely that it is the only ligament torn in these injuries. The ACL has been found to be stressed more than the PCL in both hyperflexion and hyperextension (Ellenbecker, 2000).
Note: these tests should only be used by properly trained health care practitioners
Neumann, Donald. Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System: Foundations for Rehabilitation. 2nd edition. St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier, 2010. 336. Print.
Rubinstein RA, Jr., Shelbourne KD, McCarroll JR, VanMeter CD, Rettig AC. "The accuracy of the clinical examination in the setting of posterior cruciate ligament injuries." The American journal of sports medicine. Jul-Aug 1994; 22(4):550-557.