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Fractures Versus Sprains: Everything You Need to Know About These Common Sports Injuries

Fractures and sprains are common injuries, especially among athletes and those who engage in physical activities only occasionally. These painful sports injuries often affect the wrists, thumbs, ankles, and knees — particularly during football, basketball, baseball, and gymnastics. In both cases, getting a proper diagnosis and treatment are important for your wellbeing, healing process, and the ability to get back to the activities you enjoy.

The team at Active Rehab Clinics in Park Ridge, Illinois, and Chicago, Illinois, are pleased to provide effective diagnostics and care for sports injuries, including sprains and fractures. Read on to learn more about these ailments, including how they’re similar and different.

Sprain and fractures defined

A sprain happens when you’ve injured one or more ligaments, the thick bands of tissue that support your joints. A ligament is stretched so far that it creates injury and resultant pain. A fracture, on the other hand, is a broken bone. The impact from an incident, such as a fall or collision, breaks at least part of one bone. You can also have a sprain and fracture at the same time.

Sprain and fracture symptoms

Sprains and fractures can cause similar symptoms, such as:

If you hear or feel a “pop” in a joint during an injury, it’s more likely to be a sprain. A snapping or cracking sound may indicate a fracture. With a fracture, the pain can be more severe. Fractures can also cause numbness. In more severe fractures, you might see a part of a bone protruding from your skin or a deformity.

Differences in treatment

Most sprains and fractures require some amount of rest, as well as customized treatment, depending on the severity and location of your injury. Unless you have a mild stress fracture, which can stem from overuse, fractures typically require more intense treatment than sprains. For a mild sprain, you may only need the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers can also help. More severe sprains may require a splint, physical therapy, or surgery.

For acute fractures, immediate medical care is essential, both for proper healing and to prevent further injury. Depending on which bone is broken, you may require a sling or cast to immobilize the bone while it heals. Some fractures require surgery as well. For pain related to fractures, over-the-counter pain medications and ice can help, as can elevating the affected bone. 

Getting started with proper treatment

Because sprains and fractures cause similar symptoms, it’s important to seek medical guidance. The only way to know for sure what type of injury you have is through a comprehensive exam. While some injuries can be diagnosed with a physical exam alone, your provider may run imaging tests, such as an X-ray. 

To find out whether you have a sprain, fracture, or both, and get the care you need, call the office nearest you to schedule an appointment with one of our sports medicine specialists, or book a consultation online.

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