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What Are Sprains and Strains

Updated on July 28, 2012

Sprains and Strains

Often categorised together, the difference being is that a sprain is damage to ligaments and a strain is damage to muscles or tendons.


Commonly occur within the ankle, wrist and knee although not limited to those areas alone. It is caused when a sudden twist, impact or fall which enforces the joint to move in a manor unlike its normal range of movement. Therefore it stands to reason that sports that involve excessive twisting such as racket sports, or high impact sports such as field based sports like American football, rugby and Football and sports in which participants fall such as Gymnastics and show jumping, will increase the occurrence of sprains.

Sprains can be the damage of just one ligament or multiple ligaments, the more ligaments damaged, the more severe the injury. Sprains can be further classified by the extent of the damage to the ligament, either; first degree sprain, second degree sprain or third degree sprain

First degree sprain – Where the ligament has simply but overstretched but has not torn.

Second degree sprain – Where there is only a partial tear to a ligament

Third degree sprain – the complete tearing of a ligament to the extent that the ligament becomes detached from the bone entirely.

Obviously these are progressive in their severity, a first degree sprain being the least severe and a third degree sprain being the worst and is likely to take the longest to heal, if it heals properly at all.


A strain is caused by the overstretching or rupturing of a muscle or tendon, as with sprains there are such actions which increase the probability of incurring a strain, contact in sports, dynamic lunges and sprinting, generally anything which involves maximal contraction and lengthening of any muscle pairing. Scenario’s such a long jumper going from a maximal sprint to a maximal plyometric spring upwards or a Footballer Sprinting to get on the end of a cross or a long ball and stretching a leg out maximally to make contact with the ball are at a heightened risk of straining a muscle, how many times have we seen a Striker pull up with a Hamstring Strain after trying to run onto and control a long aerial ball.

Strains are classified in a three grade system, very similar to the classification of Sprains;

Grade 1 – minor damage to muscle fibres (estimated at less than 5% of a muscle)

Grade 2 – More extensive damage has occurred (Over 5%)

Grade 3 – Complete rupture of the muscle

Grades 1 & 2 will most likely just need to be rested, a grade 3 strain will need rehabilitation and often surgery in addition.


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    • shara63 profile image

      Farhat 6 years ago from Delhi

      nice, helpful material for all moms with over active or sport loving children.

    • LoriSoard profile image

      LoriSoard 6 years ago from Henryville, Indiana

      Good advice. My daughter, who is very athletic, deals with this all the time.