A sprain occurs when an athlete falls and lands on an outstretched arm, slides into base, or twists a knee with his or her foot planted firmly on the ground. These examples and similar traumatic events cause the ligaments that connect the ends of the bones together to overstretch and tear. This type of ligament injury is called a sprain.
Sprains can range from a minor tear to a complete rupture of the ligamentous tissues. Sprains occur in either the upper or lower joints of the body. The most frequently sprained joint is the ankle. This is probably due to the fact that the ankle supports most of the body’s weight and is involved in many activities. Ankle sprains are the most common type of ligament injury. See Ankle Sprain for more details.
Sprains are usually graded according to the extent of the injury. Grade I and Grade II sprains can usually be treated conservatively with ice, rest, and physical therapy. A grade III sprain can place athletes at higher risk for permanent joint damage and instability. An operation may be necessary to successfully repair a Grade III sprain.
The symptoms of a sprain are typically pain, swelling, and bruising of the affected joint. Symptoms will vary with the intensity of the injury. Serious sprains (Grade III) are ligament tears or ruptures that result in the inability to use the affected joint and may lead to permanent instability. Less serious sprains (Grade I and Grade II) may only cause pain with movement and are usually treated by non-surgical means.
Many sports activities place athletes at risk for sprains. These include football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, and many others. Repetitive activities can also cause a sprain. While not all sprains are caused by sports activity, a few tips can help you avoid a sprain:
• Wear proper footwear
• Stretch before you workout
• Warm up properly before activities
• Do not run on slippery or uneven surfaces