Sports Sprains

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What Are Sports Sprains?

A sprain is a torn muscle or ligament common in athletes. When you damage the muscle or ligament, you may notice inflammation or spasms.

Sports sprains can happen from overuse or from force — such as a collision or fall.

Types of sports sprains

You can sprain almost any area of your body.

The most common types of sports sprains happen in the:

  • Wrist
  • Thumb
  • Ankle
  • Knee

Wrist and thumb sprain causes and risks

Wrist and thumb sprains happen when a force pushes the hand or finger backward.

Athletes at risk for thumb sprains are those that play:

  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Baseball

Ankle sprains

In an ankle sprain, you can tear the ligaments:

  • On the outside of the ankle — called a lateral ankle sprain.
  • That hold the ankle in place — called a medial ankle sprain.
  • That hold the lower two leg bones together — called a high ankle sprain.

Sports sprain prevention

To help prevent strains while playing sports:

  • Stretch and warm up before any activity.
  • Perform strength exercises, even in the off season.
  • Avoid sudden increases in the intensity of your training programs.
  • Wear the right shoes for your sport and make sure they fit well.
  • Avoid running on wet floors or uneven surfaces.
  • Use tape or braces for added supports.

Make an appointment for sports sprain care

To make an appointment or learn more about sprains, contact UPMC Sports Medicine at 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).

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Sports Sprain Symptoms and Diagnosis

Sprains happen when you overstretch or tear the muscles and ligaments of a joint. These painful injuries can affect just about any joint in the body.

Sprain symptoms

Sports sprain symptoms include:

  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Stiffness
  • Warm to the touch
  • Pain with movement

Sports sprain diagnosis

If your joint looks out of place or your symptoms don't improve within a few days of sprain treatment, you should call a doctor.

To properly diagnose the injury, your doctor will:

  • Perform a physical exam.
  • Ask if you've had a sprain or similar injury in the past.
  • Want to know what medications you're taking.

To confirm a sports sprain diagnosis — and rule out fractures or more serious injuries — your doctor may request imaging tests, such as:

  • X-rays
  • CT scans
  • MRI scans

Make an appointment for sports sprain symptoms and diagnosis

To make an appointment or learn more about sprain symptoms, contact UPMC Sports Medicine at 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).

Learn more about sprain symptoms and tests

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Sports Sprain Treatment

If you’re wondering how to treat a sprain, the team at UPMC Sports Medicine can help.

At-home sports sprain treatment

There are a few ways to manage sports sprain inflammation and pain at home.

For a strain of any joint, you'll want to:

  • Use the R.I.C.E. method — rest, ice, compression, and elevation — for 24 to 48 hours after the injury. The RICE method is one of the best home remedies for sprains.
  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Make sure to take it easy until you're sprain fully heals.

Medical and surgical sprain treatment

Depending on the severity of your sports sprain, you may need to:

  • Wear a splint for wrist or thumb sprains.
  • Use crutches for a while to keep the weight off an ankle or knee sprain.
  • Have surgery to repair muscle or ligament damage that can't heal on it's own.

Sports sprain rehab

In most cases of sports sprains, your doctor will prescribe a rehab or physical therapy program specific to your sport to help you get back to physical activity.

Make an appointment for sports sprain treatment

To make an appointment for sports sprain treatment, contact UPMC Sports Medicine at 1-855-9s3-SPORT (77678).

Learn more about sprain treatment

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