As we continue to delve into common injuries seen around the NFL, today’s post will consist of an overview of general sprains. Sprains are very similar to strains, but differ in function and location. Sprains are an injury to a ligament or multiple ligaments based on location. Ligaments are found all over the body and provide connections between bones to create a joint. When an injury occurs to the area, instability, pain, and swelling occurs based on severity.
Grade 1 sprains are when the ligament is stretched minimally and minor swelling/pain occurs. This can cause some players to miss time based on location and position, but typically can be managed conservatively in order to return to prior level of function. These types of injuries are week-to-week and can be played through if absolutely required, though increased risk of injury occurs. X-rays may be performed to ensure no fractures have occurred but are usually diagnosed through physical examination.
Grade 2 sprains are when the ligament is partially torn and moderate swelling/pain occur. These types of sprains typically keep players out for some time and cause moderate loss of function. A conservative expectation for a Grade 2 sprain could be anywhere from 4-6 weeks, though could vary based on location. At this time, an X-ray is performed to rule out any fractures. An MRI is performed to support physical examination and determine extent of damage.
Grade 3 sprains typically involve near or complete tearing of the ligament leading to significant loss of function and possible season ending surgery based on location of area. At this point, the ligament is classified more of a tear than a sprain which is why you do not see this as a Grade 3 sprain. Typically, ACL, PCL, and severe MCL tears can be categorized as such along with AC joint sprains. Ankles, shoulders, and wrists are also common areas for complex ligament damage to occur. It is common to see other structures become damaged as the result of a severe sprain/tear. MRI’s are performed to determine severity of tear and to assess for any injuries missed by physical examination or initial swelling.
In most cases, a sprain can be due to an overload to the joint as a direct blow, violent twisting/pivoting, or excessive tension on the ligament. As with all other materials in the body and in nature, everything has a breaking point. Injuries such as these can be reduced but not totally prevented. Preventative measures include playing on forgiving surfaces such as grass which reduce the friction and prevent cleats from sticking in the surface. Proper strengthening to the area and proprioceptive exercises which include body awareness activities help keep the body from overloading the joint. Bracing and taping may also give support to an area if there is a high risk for injury or prior instability. Taped wrists, knee braces on lineman, and ankles braces assist in limiting excessive range of motion, reducing the risk.
Continue to check back regarding updates on Bills news and general injuries in the coming days. While it is impossible to review every injury, this is merely a guide to assist you in understanding the severity and expected timeline upon injury. Follow on Twitter @BangedUpBills and at www.bangedupbills. As always, thank you and GO BILLS!!