Sprains, Strains and Tears



Find out what ails you

Sprains, strains. You hear these words used almost interchangeably to describe sports injuries. Add in tears, pulls and stretches and it really starts to get confusing. Here’s our primer to help you find out what really ails you, what you can do to help prevent them.

Tears and Stretches: tears and stretches are not conditions in themselves, but rather a description of the severity of either a strain or a sprain. Stretches are incomplete tears.

Sprains: a sprain is a stretch or tear in a ligament (the bands of fibrous tissue that connect your bones to your joints).

Strains: a strain is a stretch or tear in a muscle or a tendon (the tissue that connects your muscles to your bones).

Pulls: a pull is a non-medical term for a stretch or tear.

Classifications of Sprains and Strains

Class Sprain Strain
Grade I Mild stretch. Incomplete tear. No instability to the joint. Only a few fibers stretched. Tender and painful. No loss of function.
Grade II More serious stretch. Incomplete tear. Ligament becomes loose. Some instability. Greater number of pulled fibers. More severs tenderness and pain. Loss of strength. Bruising.
Grade III Completely torn or ruptured. Ligament is unstable. Often impossible to bear any weight at all. Complete tear. Complete loss of function. Considerable pain and swelling. Skin discoloration.

Treating Sprains and Strains

Immediately after injury, adopt the RICE routine immediately (Rest – Ice – Compression – Elevation, above your heart). Then consult your physician. Remember, never play through pain (see Playing through Pain).

Tips to Prevent Sprains and Strains

At some point, every professional athlete and weekend warrior gets injured. Here are some tips to help prevent injuries from happening:

  • Warm up before activities
  • Maintain healthy body weight
  • Practice good posture (sitting and standing)
  • Do strengthening and stretching exercises
  • Gradually increase training intensity