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What's the difference between a sprain and a strain?

ANSWER

People use the terms almost interchangeably to describe everything from a twisted ankle to a pulled hamstring. But they aren't the same.

A sprain is a stretch or tear in a ligament. Ligaments are bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones to bones at your joints.

A strain is also a stretch or tear, but it happens in a muscle or a tendon. Tendons link muscles to bones.

SOURCES:

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Bureau of Labor Statistics.

John Martinez, MD, sports medicine specialist, team physician, USA Triathlon, San Diego.

C. Thomas Vangsness Jr., MD, professor of orthopedics, chief of the sports medicine service, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Ralph Gambardella, MD, clinical associate professor of orthopedics, University of Southern California; orthopedist, Los Angeles Dodgers.

David Geier, MD, orthopedic surgeon, director, MUSC Sports Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Familydoc.org.

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson on November 16, 2016

SOURCES:

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Bureau of Labor Statistics.

John Martinez, MD, sports medicine specialist, team physician, USA Triathlon, San Diego.

C. Thomas Vangsness Jr., MD, professor of orthopedics, chief of the sports medicine service, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Ralph Gambardella, MD, clinical associate professor of orthopedics, University of Southern California; orthopedist, Los Angeles Dodgers.

David Geier, MD, orthopedic surgeon, director, MUSC Sports Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Familydoc.org.

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson on November 16, 2016

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What causes sprains?

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