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A sprain is a stretch and/or tear of a ligament (a band of fibrous tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint). One or more ligaments can be injured at the same time. The severity of the injury will depend on the extent of injury (whether a tear is partial or complete) and the number of ligaments involved.
Source: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. www.niams.nih.gov
Grade I
(mild sprain)
Grade II
(moderate sprain)
Grade III
(severe sprain)
caused by overstretching or slight tearing of the ligaments with no joint instability.
caused by further, but still incomplete, tearing of the ligament
completely tear or rupture a ligament.
minimal pain, swelling, and little or no loss of functional ability.
Bruising is absent or slight, and the person is usually able to put weight on the affected joint.
bruising, moderate pain, and swelling.
difficulty putting weight on the affected joint and experiences some loss of function.
Pain, swelling, and bruising are usually severe, and the patient is unable to put weight on the joint.
Symptoms of Sprain
A Sprain can result from a fall, a sudden twist, or a blow to the body that forces a joint out of its normal position and stretches or tears the ligament supporting that joint. Typically, sprains occur when people fall and land on an outstretched arm, slide into a baseball base, land on the side of their foot, or twist a knee with the foot planted firmly on the ground.
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