It's summertime and nearly everyone is more active this time of year. No one wants an injury to sideline them. In this article, we'll examine sprains and strains, the differences between them and how to 'get back in the game.'
Any joint that has ligaments connecting two bones together can be sprained. For example, the ankle is frequently the site of a sprain. The ligaments are the strong fibrous tissue that goes between two bones and a sprain occurs when the ligament is either stretched or torn.
Usual symptoms for a sprain include pain and swelling at the site. Most victims will have decreased ability to move the injured part. Bleeding from the injury area is released, reaching the skin and bruising can be observed. Persons can often recall hearing or feeling a "pop" at the time of the injury.
Strains are injuries occurring after the tearing of a muscle or tendon. Like a ligament, the tendon is also very tough material, but connects muscles to bones (not bone to bone, like a ligament). Strains are common injuries, with numerous possible locations. Contact sports strain injuries can occur from impact (sudden) or strains may also occur from overuse (repetitive) actions.
It is important to note that these injuries are less common in children due to the softer nature of their bones - children are more prone to fractures than getting strains or sprains!
An easy to remember acronym helps to guide treatment for both sprains and strains. "R.I.C.E." stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Rest includes not using the injured part, possibly even using crutches until weight bearing can be done without significant pain. Short periods of icing the affected area for 15 minutes several times a day for the first couple of days is recommended. Compression (wrap or splint) assists in decreasing swelling and stabilizing the affected area. Lastly, elevation is used to drain accumulated fluid from the injury. Gravity will really help here, and it's important to have the injured part above heart level, if at all possible.
Less fluid in the area of injury usually results in less pain - not as much pressure on the surrounding nerves!
In addition, x-rays may be needed, especially if the pain is severe and you are unable to put weight on the affected area. If the area is deformed, feels unstable, is numb or if there is a break in the skin, the odds of a bony injury are higher. See a doctor and be properly examined.
Sprains and strains don't often need surgery, but if a ligament is badly torn or a muscle is ruptured, it may require surgical repair.
The best prevention is proper stretching before your activity and good physical conditioning. Make sure your gear fits correctly too. Stay well!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.