Sprain, Pediatric

Your child has a sprained joint. A sprain means that a band of tissue that connects two bones (ligament) has been injured. The ligament may have been overly stretched or some of its fibers may have been torn.

CAUSES

Common causes of sprains include:

  • Falls.

  • Twisting injury.

  • Direct trauma.

  • Sudden or unusual stress or bending of a joint outside of its normal range. This could happen during sports, play, or as a result of a fall.

SYMPTOMS

Sprains cause:

  • Pain

  • Bruising

  • Swelling

  • Tenderness

  • Inability to use the joint or limb

DIAGNOSIS

Diagnosis is based on:

  • The story of the injury.

  • The physical exam.

In most cases, no testing is needed. If your caregiver is concerned about a more serious problem, x-rays or other imaging tests may be done to rule out a broken bone, a cartilage injury, or a ligament tear.

TREATMENT

Treatment depends on what joint is injured and how severe the injury is. Your child's caregiver may suggest:

  • Ice packs for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours and elevation until the pain and swelling are better.

  • Resting the joint or limb.

  • Crutches

  • No weight bearing until pain is much better.

  • Splints, braces, casting or elastic wraps.

  • Physical therapy.

  • Pain medicine.

  • Protective splinting or taping to prevent future sprains.

In rare cases where the same joint is sprained many times, surgery may be needed to prevent further problems.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Follow your child's caregiver's instructions for treatment and follow up.

  • If your child's caregiver suggests over the counter pain medicine, do not use aspirin in children under the age of 19 years.

  • Keep the child from sports or PE until your child's caregiver says it is OK.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Your child's injury remains tender or if weight bearing is still painful after 5 to 7 days of rest and treatment.

  • Symptoms are worse.

  • Your child's cast or splint hurts or pinches.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • A cast or splint was applied and:

  • Your child's limb is pale or cold.

  • There is numbness in the limb.

  • Your child's pain is worse.