What is a sprain?

A sprain occurs when a ligament (a band of tissue that connects 2 or more bones at a joint) is stretched and/or torn. During a sprain, 1 or more ligaments may be injured. The severity of the sprain depends on the number of ligaments injured and the extent of the injury (whether there is a partial or complete tear).

Where do sprains occur?

Sprains occur in both the upper and lower parts of the body. However, the 3 most common sprain sites are the ankle, knee and wrist.

  • Ankle sprain: typically occurs when the foot turns inward as a person runs, turns or lands on the ankle after a jump.
  • Knee sprain: typically occurs after a blow to the knee or a fall. Sudden twisting of the knee may result in a sprain.
  • Wrist sprain: typically occurs when one falls and lands on an outstretched hand.

What causes a sprain?

A sprain is caused by either direct or indirect trauma that knocks the joint out of position and overstretches, sometimes rupturing the supporting ligaments. Examples of trauma include rolling of the ankle, a fall or a blow to the body.

What are the signs and symptoms of sprains?

Signs and symptoms may vary due to severity of injury. They may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Inflammation
  • Bruising

  • Instability

  • Loss of the ability to move and use the joint