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St. Francis Sports Medicine Newsletter | October 2010

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October 2010

10/9 - 10/10


Do you know the difference between a sprain and a strain? More often than not, the terms sprain and strain are used interchangeably to describe some of the more common sports-related injuries. Although sprains and strains have several similarities, they are very different injuries and it is important to know their differences so that they can be treated successfully. Please continue reading to learn more about the differences between sprains and strains.
Sprain and Strain Only Sound Alike

Both sprains and strains engage the connective tissues, but a sprain is an injury to a ligament, which connects the end of one bone to another, and a strain is an injury to the tendon, which connects the muscle to the bone.
Sprains are more likely to occur in contact or collision sports and the individual will usually feel a tear or pop in the joint. Strains are not specific to any particular sport, but are the result of prolonged, repetitive movement of muscles and tendons.
Both injuries vary in severity from mild to moderate to severe. While the intensity varies, pain, bruising, swelling and inflammation are common to all three categories of sprains. The individual will usually feel a tear or pop in the joint. Typical indications for a strain include pain, muscle spasm, muscle weakness, swelling, inflammation, and cramping.
Initially, both sprains and strains are treated similarly with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. However, for a sprain to heal properly, it must be stabilized with a splint or brace to prevent the joint from stressing the connective tissues any further. A strain, on the other hand, doesn't need to be immobilized as movement actually helps the healing process.  
It is important in all but mild cases for a doctor to evaluate the injury and establish a treatment and rehabilitation plan. A severe sprain or strain may require surgery or immobilization followed by therapy. Mild sprains and strains may require rehabilitation exercises and activity modification during recovery.

Sprains and strains are common and unfortunately most athletes will encounter one or both of them during their athletic career. Knowing the difference between a sprain and strain can help an athlete understand his or her injury and recognize when it is safe to get back in the game!

If you experience a suspected strain or sprain, call us at 675-HURT for treatment advice.