Font Size

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

Must Read Articles Related to Sprains and Strains

Achilles Tendon Rupture
Achilles Tendon Rupture The Achilles tendon, or tendon calcaneus, is a large ropelike band of fibrous tissue in the back of the ankle that connects the powerful calf muscles to the hee...learn more >>
Ankle Sprain
Ankle Sprain Ankle sprains are common sports injuries caused by extreme force, unnatural motion, or uneven ground. Sprained ankles often occur during exercise, but may also ...learn more >>
Leg Pain
Leg Pain There are a variety of causes of leg pain. Some...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Sprains and Strains:

Sprains and Strains - Symptoms and Signs

What are the symptoms and signs of your sprain or strain?

Sprains and Strains - Treatment

What treatment was effective for your sprain or strain?

Sprains and Strains - Causes

What caused your sprain or strain?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Lumbosacral Spine Sprain/Strain Injuries »

Low back pain (LBP) is a well-known health concern in the United States.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary