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One of the most common injuries in sports is a sprain. A sprain is the overload and/or tearing of a ligament of ligaments. Ligaments are bands of fibrous tissues that connect bone to bone and support and strengthen the joints. A sprain occurs when the joint is stretched beyond its normal limits. Sprains are graded from I to III, I being the least serious and III being the most severe.

Severity of Sprains: grade I | grade II | grade III

Grade I Sprain:

A ligament has been overstretched.

  • Pain
  • Swelling, usually without loss of motion.
  • Ice to control swelling and pain
  • Elevation to minimize the blood flow to the area, Rest, and further evaluation by an athletic trainer or a physician.
  • Strengthening of the area, working in a pain-free range of motion while decreasing the pain and swelling.
Grade II Sprain:

The ligaments are partially torn resulting in some increased laxity of the joint.

  • Pain
  • Moderate loss of function
  • Swelling
  • Possible discoloration
  • Slight to moderate instability
  • Rest, use of crutches, and an evaluation by an athletic trainer and/or physician
  • Ice, elevation and compression: to minimize and control swelling and pain
  • Management of a grade II sprain includes decreasing pain and swelling, working in a pain-free range of motion, increasing the range of motion, and strengthening the area.
Grade III Sprain:

The ligament/ ligaments are completely torn.

  • Pain
  • Complete loss of function
  • Instability of the joint
  • Tenderness over the area
  • Swelling and discoloration

Ice Compression Elevation and Rest

Evaluation by an athletic trainer and/or physician should be immediate. Many grade III injuries are handled conservatively, however depending on the severity surgery may be necessary.

Management of a grade III sprain includes an extensive rehabilitation program to strengthen the area, increase the range of motion, and decrease swelling and pain.

Many times the question is asked, "When can the athlete return to competition following a sprain?" An athlete can return to competition when there is normal range of motion, normal strength, a decrease in pain and swelling, and the athlete has the ability to perform sport specific activities normally.

Ankle Sprains

Acute ankle sprains are the most common athletic injury. They account for 85% of all ankle injuries. Inversion injuries with injury to the lateral or outer ankle account for 85% of these types of injuries. Basketball is one of the most common sporting events to have an ankle injury occur. Ankle sprains account for 37% of injuries in basketball partly due to the fact of the amount of time that is spent leaving and then returning to the playing surface.

  • Acute pain to ankle
  • Moderate ankle swelling (inner and/or outer) ankle
  • Discoloration to injured area after a day or two
  • Painful or inability to bear weight
  • Rehabilitation
    • RICE:
    • Rest ankle
    • Ice ankle first 24 - 48 hours (15 minutes with ice, 15 minutes without ice)
    • Compression - appropriate ace bandaging of ankle as not to compromise circulation
    • Elevate - raise injured extremity above heart level as much as possible during first 24 - 48 hours after injury.
  • X - rays - Seek medical opinion for diagnostic determination to rule out a fracture
Preventative Methods:
  • Proper flexibility (stretch the gastroc/ soleus or the calf muscle by holding the calf stretch for 30 seconds and repeating three times).
  • Strengthening (30 seconds of heel walking strengthens the front portion of the ankle, one set of 30 calf raises can strengthen the calf muscle group.
  • Proprioception (the relaying of information back to our Central Nervous system on joint position). Maintain a single leg balance for 30 - 60 seconds while doing a chest or bounce pass with a teammate - repeat three times on each leg.
  • Proper fitting footwear (shoes)
  • Recurrent ankle sprains can be prevented by preseason strengthening, pre-game stretching, ankle braces, taping and high-top shoes.

Acute Lateral Ankle Sprain

This is the most common athletic injury accounting for 38-45% in some sports. 85% of all ankle injuries are of the "inversion type" (turning the ankle inward). It is the lateral or outer ligaments of the ankle that are injured.

  • Tenderness and swelling along injured ligament
  • Discoloration to ankle or foot area
  • Difficulty bearing weight due to pain
  • Rehabilitation
  • X-rays to exclude fracture (broken bone)
  • Pain control
  • Swelling control - ice area 15 minutes with/ 15 minutes without ice
  • Elevate - keep foot/ ankle elevated and supported above heart level as often as possible
  • Maintain adequate pre-post game conditioning
  • Ankle supports as recommended by health care worker (ankle stirrups)

Chronic Lateral Ankle Sprain

This is a direct result of recurrent ankle sprains associated with frequent pain, swelling and ankle "giving out".

  • Rehabilitation
  • RICE
    • rest
    • ice
    • compression
    • elevation
  • Range of motion exercises as designated by athletic trainer of healthcare provider
  • Proprioceptive training (balance techniques and strengthening exercises)
  • Surgical intervention remains controversial but is an option for reinjury in spite of rehabilitation
  • Rule out congenital abnormalities
  • Maintain adequate pre-post game conditioning
  • Recognition of chronic symptoms

Finger Sprains

Finger sprains are injuries to the ligaments or any of the three joints of the fingers. Commonly referred to as "jammed" fingers, sprains are usually caused by "jamming" the finger into an opponent or being hit on the tip of the finger by the ball. Fingers are also injured by being bent back (hyperextended) by the ball.

Athletes often overlook finger sprains because it is "just a finger". However, finger injuries can be very painful and can lead to chronic ailments if not treated promptly. Although finger sprains may not be serious, there are several other types of finger injuries that can occur in basketball. Some of these are more serious and require much more extensive care.

If symptoms persist and seem more severe than those described below, the athlete should see a physician immediately. If the joint is dislocated (out of place), do not attempt to put it back in place. Splint the joint as it is and refer immediately to a physician for evaluation.

Signs of a finger sprain:
  • Pain/stiffness with the motion of the joint
  • Swelling of the joint
  • Tender to touch sides of the joint
Treatment of finger sprain:
  • Ice 15 min
    *an easy way is in a cup of ice water
  • Immobilize or splint
    *can be done by taping 2 fingers together
    *always tape index finger to long finger and ring finger to small finger

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