Sprains and strains are common in auto-accidents
In general, sprains and strains are one of the most common types of injuries, and they are frequently sustained in car accidents. In both sprains and strains, your soft tissues are injured. In the case of sprains, your ligaments are stretched or torn, and in the case of strains, it is your muscles and tendons. 2
Ligament injuries—ankle sprains and ACL injuries, in particular—are the most common cause of joint pain. 1
How a sprain or strain occurs
The most common mechanism of injury is overstretching a body part. As the soft tissue stretches, its fibers also stretch until they reach their limit. Once they reach the stretching limit, any movement beyond that point will cause a strain or sprain. Less extensive overstretching will only cause the stretching of ligaments, tendons, or muscles, but more extensive stretching can cause those structures to tear.
In the case of car accidents, if the driver and passengers are restrained (a.k.a. wearing their seatbelts), the lower leg will be the most common site of injury. 3 Though, the ankles, wrists, and knees are also frequently injured. 4
The driver’s wrist is usually injured in an auto accident, as they tend to grasp the steering wheel firmer at the moment of impact. Drivers also often sustain ankle injuries, which are caused by the unnatural position of the foot at the moment of impact.
Usually, the person will feel a sudden pain near the injured site. A fairly certain sign of ligament rupture is hearing a popping sound at the moment of injury. 2 Swelling occurs quickly after the injury and can last for several weeks. The swelling is frequently followed by bruising, and range of motion of the injured body part will be limited and painful for quite some time.
Treatment for sprain or strain
Treatment options will depend on the severity of the injury. Most people believe that RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is the only treatment option for sprains and strains. But surgical intervention and treatment may be necessary for the more severe cases.
In fact, it is a common misconception that sprains and strains are a minor injury that don’t have any long-term consequences. In some cases, this kind of auto accident injury can have an extensive and enduring impact on your health and quality of life.
Though every tendon, ligament, or muscle injury will heal by creating scar tissue, there is unfortunately no treatment option that will fully restore the injured tendon or ligament. 5
Prognosis for sprain or strain
Torn ligaments require at least 6 weeks to as much as 3 months to heal. 6 However, it can take up to a couple years for a scar on the injured ligament to fully mature. Only after the healing process is completed will you know whether the injury has healed well or whether the weakened injured site will fail if heavy pressure or stress is applied. 5 The repaired tissue will remain a weak point and future injuries will increase the chance of a new rupture.
Joint instability related to sprains and strains
Many individuals with previous injuries will experience joint instability—a very serious problem, particularly if the knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or wrist are the injured areas. 6
Joint instability causes changes in joint motion and force transmission, which can lead to damage not only of the affected joint but also of other body parts. 5 For example, ankle instability will cause gait changes which will eventually affect the knee joints, hips, and lower back, causing cartilage damage and arthritis.
In the case of joint instability, the person might need to change or reduce their level of activity or seek out a different job, if their current one requires constant weight bearing or sudden changes of direction.
A person with chronic joint instability localized in the lower leg usually experiences pain after standing or walking for a longer period of time. Swelling is also a very common issue. If the person has a problem with an upper extremity joint (shoulder, elbow, or wrist), they will usually complain about pain after repeated motions or weight bearing.
Sprains and strains make you more predisposed for future injury
Under normal circumstances, joint cartilage will wear and tear over the course of a lifetime, and people will have symptoms of osteoarthritis in older age. However, in the case of joint laxity caused by ligament issues, such as instability, the bones will have more space to move freely and the cartilage will suffer a lot more impacts than with any other types of injury. 5 7
Previous ligament injuries will also cause muscle weakness, joint instability, decreased function, and neuromuscular deficits (balance problems, problems with sensations, reduced sense of joint position, etc.). 5
A person with joint instability might require a surgery and repeated physical therapy in order to stabilize the joint and minimize the symptoms.
Value of a sprain or strain on your car accident case
In particular, car accidents resulting in sprains and strains can cause devestating and lasting harm to accident victims. If the other side's insurance company or attorney is giving your trouble and undervaluing your claim if you have been hurt in a car accident in Virginia resulting from the actions of another driver, you can seek representation from a Virginia car accident lawyer. You may be entitled to compensation for your bodily injuries, physical pain and mental anguish, disfigurement and deformity, inconvenience, medical expenses, earnings lost, and property damage.
Beau Correll is a Winchester, VA attorney who focuses on victims of personal injury. The professionals at Correll Law Firm, PLC are available for a free case evaluation to help you begin pursuing your personal injury case and receiving the compensation you deserve.
1. Ligament Injury and Healing: A Review of Current Clinical Diagnostics and Therapeutics R.A. Hauser, E.E. Dolan, H.J. Phillips, A.C. Newlin, R.E. Moore and B.A. Woldin
2. "Sprains And Strains - Symptoms And Causes." Mayo Clinic. N. p., 2018. Web. 1 June 2018.
3. Pattimore, Dan et al. "The Nature And Cause Of Lower Limb Injuries In Car Crashes." SAE Technical Paper Series(1991): n. pag. Web. 1 June 2018.
4. "Sprains, Strains And Other Soft-Tissue Injuries - Orthoinfo - AAOS." Orthoinfo.aaos.org. N. p., 2018. Web. 1 June 2018.
6. Tricia J. Hubbard and Charlie A. Hicks-Little (2008) Ankle Ligament Healing After an Acute Ankle Sprain: An Evidence-Based Approach. Journal of Athletic Training: Sep/Oct 2008, Vol. 43, No. 5, pp. 523-529.
7. Hertel, Jay. "Functional Instability Following Lateral Ankle Sprain." Sports Medicine 29.5 (2000): 361-371. Web. 1 June 2018.