Sprains Injury PreventionWhat Are Sprains?

A sprain is a type of joint injury that can happen to just about anyone. At the joints, you have soft tissue fibers that form tough cords known as ligaments. The ligaments connect the bones and hold them together at the joint. A sprain occurs when these ligaments are overstretched or torn.

While sprains are common outside of sports, an athlete is at an increased risk for suffering this type of injury. A sprain can occur at any joint, but it is especially common in the ankle, wrist, thumb, and knee.

Depending on the location and the severity of the sprain, symptoms can vary. For the most part, symptoms include pain, swelling, loss of mobility at the affected joint, and bruising. Another common marker of a sprain is the feeling or sound of a pop at the joint when the injury occurs. The most common treatment for sprains is the R.I.C.E. method, meaning Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. With these steps and some time, a mild sprain is known to heal quickly. Another option is to apply a topical pain reliever to the affected area in order to relieve the discomfort that accompanies a sprain.

Common Sprain Injuries


The ankle is the most common joint to suffer a sprain. In the ankle, there are a number of different ligaments that can become damaged and there are a couple of ways that the injury can occur.

Most ankle sprains are caused by inversion events. This occurs when the ankle rolls outward and the foot folds in toward the opposite leg. With an inversion sprain, the ligaments on the outward facing part of the ankle become stretched or torn.

The other common way to sprain an ankle occurs as the result of eversion incidents. This can occur if the ankle rolls toward the opposite leg and the foot goes outward. In these events, the ligaments on the inward facing part of the ankle suffer tears or stretching.


With wrist sprains, the most common cause is a fall. As a person falls, they often try to catch themselves with an outstretched hand. When the hand hits the ground, the force of impact may bend the wrist back, creating a sudden force that can cause ligaments to stretch and tear.


Concerning knee sprains, you have a number of ligaments that can suffer injury. Most commonly, a knee sprain will involve the ACL or the MCL. These injuries usually occur as the result of a sudden stop or turn, a quick pivot or as the result of an impact that occurs directly on the area of the ligament.


A sprained thumb can occur when the joints of the thumb are forced beyond their normal range of motion. Sprains also commonly occur when the thumb is applying pressure to something and it is forced back. A thumb sprain is a common injury for skiers, or when a ball strikes the thumb and forces it back.


Most sprains are relatively mild and will heal without the need for medical attention. However, more severe sprains can be the result of significant damage and they might require surgery. To avoid the pain that comes with a sprain injury, athletes should take several steps toward prevention.

  • Warm up: As an athlete, you should warm up and stretch your joints before activity.
  • Strength and Conditioning: If your body is not properly conditioned, then there is a much greater risk of a sprain. Build strength in the muscles that support the joints and condition the body for the activity.
  • Proper footwear: In many sports, a great deal of stress is placed on the ankle. To prevent ankle sprains, you need to wear shoes that provide adequate ankle support.
  • Safe conditions: During activity, do not practice or play on a field or court that is not properly maintained. If a surface is uneven or unstable, it could add to the risk of a sprain.

This is Part 3 of an 11 Part Series


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