young woman holding lower back and hips in pain.

Sprains and strains are among the most common injuries in sports. A sprain is an injury to the ligaments around a joint. Ligaments are connective tissue that joins the ends of bones to one another. They help to stabilize and support the joints.  

Sprains are classified by severity into three categories or grades: 

  • Grade 1 (Mild): Minor stretching and damage to the ligament 
  • Grade 2 (Moderate): Partial tearing of the ligament resulting in looseness when the joint is moved in certain ways 
  • Grade 3 (Severe): Complete tear of the ligament causing significant instability and often requiring surgical treatment 

Symptoms of a sprain can include pain, swelling, bruising, and inflammation. Treatment often first begins with the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) but should also be evaluated by a doctor to ensure extensive damage was not done. 

Strains are similar to sprains but instead involve muscles and/or tendons. Tendons are the connective tissue that attaches muscles to bone. Like a sprain, these may be partial or complete. Symptoms can include pain, muscle spasms, weakness, swelling, and inflammation. Strains should also be treated using the RICE protocol followed by physical therapy or a home exercise program. However, more severe strains may require surgery.  

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