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Sprains and Strains (cont.)

What Causes Sprains and Strains?

Patient Comments

A sprain is usually caused by trauma to a joint (the space between bones). Twisting or forces overstretch the ligaments (such as hyperextension or hyperflexion) and can cause tears in the ligament tissue, which can be graded from mild to severe depending on the amount of damage. Sprains can happen when people twist an ankle or knee or fall on an elbow or shoulder. A strain is usually the result of overstretching or overuse of muscles and tendons. An acute strain can be the result of sudden twisting or trauma to the muscles or tendons. Chronic strains are the consequence of overuse of muscles and tendons, such as with athletes who train constantly and do not rest adequately.

What Are Risk Factors for Sprains and Strains?

Anyone can get a sprain or strain, however, some people may be at higher risk, including the following people:

  • Athletes
    • Jumping sports (for example, basketball, volleyball) carry a higher risk of foot, knee, and ankle strains and sprains.
    • Gymnastics, tennis, and golf carry a higher risk of hand, wrist, elbow, rotator cuff, and arm strains and sprains.
    • Contact sports (for example, hockey and football) carry a higher risk of sprains and strains of any type, including but not limited to the fingers, thumbs, toes, and neck.
    • Endurance sports (for example, running and triathlon) carry a higher risk of strains from overuse. Common areas for sprains and strains in endurance athletes include hips, calves, hamstrings, quads, and other parts of the legs.
  • Those with a history of prior sprains or strains
  • People who are overweight
  • People who are starting physical activity or exercise programs for the first time
  • People with neurologic problems or balance disorders may be at higher risk for strain and sprain injuries from falling.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/18/2016

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