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Friday, April 14, 2023

Spring Sports Injuries: Don’t Get Sidelined by Sprains or Strains

Posted By: Advancing Care

With spring sports in full swing, athletes of all ages are dusting off their gear and hitting the fields, courts and courses to play their favorite games. However, with an increase in physical activity comes the risk of injury, and two of the most common injuries that occur during the spring sports season are sprains and strains. Though similar, there are a few key differences between the two—here’s what you need to know.

What’s the difference between a sprain and a strain?

Robert Meyerson, MD
Robert Meyerson, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon

Sprains and strains are injuries to the soft tissues in the body, specifically the ligaments and tendons.

“A sprain occurs when a ligament, the tough band of tissue that connects bones to one another, is stretched or torn,” says Robert Meyerson, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Bon Secours Orthopedics. “A strain, on the other hand, is when a muscle or tendon, the tissue that connects muscles to bones, becomes damaged.” Both sprains and strains can be painful and limit your ability to participate in sports or other activities.

Sprains and strains are classified into three grades depending on how much damage the ligaments, tendons and muscles sustain. Grade 1 sprains and strains are mild and involve stretching of the ligament or tendon, while grade 2 injuries are moderate and can result in partial ligament or tendon tearing. Grade 3 sprains and strains are severe and involve complete tearing of the ligament or tendon. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, weakness and limited range of motion.

Treatment for sprains and strains

If the symptoms are virtually the same, how can you tell which injury you have and how to treat it?

“A sports medicine specialist or athletic trainer is best equipped to diagnose and treat your injury,” explains Daniel Charen, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Bon Secours Orthopedics. “But there are steps you can take immediately after sustaining a sprain or strain that can help you manage the pain and recover more quickly.”

If you think you may have sprained or strained something, the first thing you should do is rest and ice the affected area. This is commonly known by the acronym RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation, and it will help reduce inflammation and prevent further damage.

Daniel Charen, MD
Daniel Charen, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon

It’s critical to rest the affected area and avoid any activities that may aggravate the injury for at least 24-48 hours. Apply ice for 15-20 minutes at a time, multiple times a day, to keep swelling and pain at bay. When using ice, be careful not to apply it for too long, as sustained use can cause tissue damage. Compression, such as a bandage or elastic wrap, can also help to reduce swelling. Elevating the affected area above the heart can soothe swelling and improve blood flow. And lastly, don’t be afraid to consult your medicine cabinet or pharmacy for over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help manage the pain.

“For sprains, you may need to use crutches or wear a brace or splint to immobilize the affected area,” says Dr. Meyerson. “In more severe cases, surgery might be necessary to repair the ligament. For strains, physical therapy is often recommended to help strengthen the muscles and prevent additional injuries.”

In terms of prevention, there are several ways you can stay footloose and injury-free this spring sports season:

  • Prepare your muscles and joints for physical activity by stretching and engaging in some light cardio, such as jogging or jumping jacks.
  • Wear the proper gear, including the right shoes, pads and other protective items specific to your sport.
  • If you feel pain or discomfort at any point, listen to your body—take a break, rest and seek medical attention if necessary.
  • Build your strength slowly over time by exercising and strength training regularly.
  • Stay hydrated before, during and after exercise to prevent cramping and muscle fatigue.

Injuries can be a real pain, but with the right treatment and prevention strategies, you can get back on your feet quickly and safely.

For more information about sports injuries or to make an appointment at Bon Secours Orthopedics, visitBonSecoursMG.com/Orthopedics or call 845.777.3550.