Sprains and Strains

Many sports, including Muay Thai, often put individuals at risk of both sprains and strains. A sprain occurs at a joint when a ligament is stretched beyond its normal capacity. A strain is very similar, however occurs when a muscle is overstretched.

 

There are various degrees of sprain and this is used to classify the severity of an injury. The degrees of sprain are as follows:

  • First Degree: Minor tear or stretch of the ligament
  • Second Degree: Tear of a ligament accompanied by pain and swelling
  • Third Degree: Complete rupture (tear)
  • Fourth Degree: Breaks the ligament and sometimes small bones (requiring surgery)
  • Fifth Degree: Tears all the ligaments and breaks all the surrounding bones

The joints most commonly affected by sprains are the ankle and knee joints. An individual may be aware of a sprain if they notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Inflammation
  • Pain at the joint
  • Swelling
  • Numbness of the joint
  • Loss of movement at the joint

A strain is also commonly referred to as a pulled muscle. The symptoms of a strain are very similar to that of a sprain. The important difference is that a strain will be felt in the muscle whereas sprains will be felt in the joint.

 

The most important thing an athlete needs to consider in order to avoid these injuries is a good warm-up involving plenty of correct stretching. There are a number of ways an individual can make sure that their muscles and joints remain in good condition:

  • Careful stretching: Each muscle group should be stretched slowly and carefully. The muscle should be stretched to a point just short of pain. Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds and repeat a couple of times.
  • Be aware of your own limitations: If a muscle begins to feel tired, sore or overstretched make sure the exercise is stopped and rested.
  • If a muscle or joint has been injured previously, make sure you pay particular attention to it and be extra careful when exercising.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle and a good level of fitness. A good diet and plenty of varied exercise will keep joints and muscles healthy.

If an individual is unfortunate enough to develop and sprain or strain it is important to follow some very simple advice for the treatment of these injuries. Immediately after spraining or straining a joint or muscle it is important to remember the acronym R.I.C.E., which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

 

All of the components of R.I.C.E. are aimed at reducing swelling and in doing so giving the injury the best possible chance to recover. It is essential to rest the muscle or joint so as to prevent it from further injury. It is also important to rest as it allows the body to use energy to help heal the injury. Ice is the next step and involves applying an ice pack or some ice cubes wrapped in a towel to the injured area. The cold limits the blood flow to the affected area and in doing so prevents further inflammation. Ice should only be applied for a maximum of 20 minutes, any longer and it may cause damage to the skin. Compression, using a bandage wrapped around the joint or muscle, is also advised as it limits the swelling of the injured area. The final component is elevation, and this also helps reduce swelling, and is best achieved by elevating the injury above the level of the heart. This could be performed by lying on the bed and propping up the affected area with a couple of pillows.

So, remember to warm-up well, stretching thoroughly and carefully, and if the worst happens and a sprain or strain occurs remember R.I.C.E.!

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