Ligament Sprains & Tears

A sprain is a stretch and/or tear of a ligament, the fibrous band of connective tissue that joins the end of one bone with another. Ligaments stabilize and support the body’s joints. For example, ligaments in the knee connect the upper leg with the lower leg, enabling people to walk and run.

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Causes

A sprain is caused by direct or indirect trauma (a fall, a blow to the body, etc.) that knocks a joint out of position, and overstretches, and, in severe cases, ruptures the supporting ligaments. Typically, this injury occurs when an individual lands on an outstretched arm; slides into a base; jumps up and lands on the side of the foot; or runs on an uneven surface.

Signs

While the intensity varies, pain, bruising, swelling, and inflammation are common to all three categories of sprains: mild, moderate, severe. The individual will usually feel a tear or pop in the joint. A severe sprain produces excruciating pain at the moment of injury, as ligaments tear completely, or separate from the bone. This loosening makes the joint nonfunctional. A moderate sprain partially tears the ligament, producing joint instability, and some swelling. A ligament is stretched in a mild sprain, but there is no joint loosening.

Treatments

Rest, ice, compression, and elevation usually will help minimize the damage. It is important in all but mild cases for a medical doctor to evaluate the injury and establish a treatment and rehabilitation plan. A severe sprain or strain may require surgery or immobilization followed by months of therapy. Mild sprains and strains may require rehabilitation exercises and activity modification during recovery.

Lisfranc (midfoot) injuries result if bones in the midfoot are broken or ligaments that support the midfoot are torn. The severity of the injury can vary from simple to complex, involving many joints and bones in the midfoot.

A Lisfranc injury is often mistaken for a simple sprain, especially if the injury is a result of a straightforward twist and fall. However, injury to the Lisfranc joint is not a simple sprain that should be simply “walked off.” It is a severe injury that may take many months to heal and may require surgery to treat.

Lowcountry Orthopaedics’ Foot & Ankle Team

William Corey, MD

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(843) 797-5050

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2880 Tricom Street
North Charleston, SC 29406

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