Understanding Sprains, Strains, Tears and Breaks

Sprains, strains, tears and breaks can be an enormous inconvenience, especially for athletes. Even the best preventative measures won’t guarantee that an individual will be protected from one of these types of injuries. Learn the difference between sprains, strains, tears and breaks so you can act quickly and appropriately if you or someone around you is injured.football injury

A sprain affects ligaments in the body, and occurs when a ligament is torn or stretched. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, sprains most often occur in the ankle. Sprains can happen with impact, such as running or sliding into a baseball base, or if the body twists the wrong way with a foot planted firmly on the ground. When a sprain occurs, you feel sharp pain and will have trouble moving or putting weight on the affected area.

According to Medline Plus, a strain is a stretched or torn muscle or tendon. This is slightly different from a sprain, which affects ligaments. Muscle strains can occur quickly, due to injury, but may also develop over time from overuse. If you have a strain, you feel pain and muscle spasms, and may have difficulty moving the muscle in question.

One of the most common tears can occur in the knee. The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is a ligament in the knee than can be injured with a sudden twisting movement, sometimes during sports like soccer and volleyball. Torn ligaments often require surgery and significant physical therapy. A torn ligament causes abrupt, severe pain.

Broken bones can occur anywhere in the body, and may be common during high impact sports. Not all breaks are compound fractures. Stress fractures can occur through repetitive use. For example, runners may experience stress fractures in various bone structures of the foot.  Breaks may be immediately visible or may be felt as a steady, sharp pain.  Look for swelling and bruising.


Sprains: Wear proper footwear and protective equipment, especially when engaging in team and impact sports. Be cautious when walking or jogging on uneven surfaces.

Strains: Avoid strains by using equipment properly and stretching correctly before and after activities. Be cautious when engaging in repetitive activities over a long period of time.

Tears:  Try landing on the balls of your feet instead of flat-footed. Always use proper technique when playing sports.

Breaks:  Broken bones can occur in many ways, from car accidents to falls. Exercise caution and wear the appropriate protective gear when playing rough sports.

Medical Center Arlington, the official hospital of the Texas Rangers Baseball Club, is equipped to assist and treat professional athletes and weekend warriors alike. We can assess your pain and determine the best therapy and treatment to get you back on your feet and on the playing field again. Visit us online to learn more about our Sports Medicine services or call 1-855-868-6262 for a physician referral.

Related Posts:
Protecting Your Athlete Against Common Sports Injuries
Ice it or Heat it: Treating Your Strains & Pains
The Benefits of Physical Therapy

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