Pediatric Strains and Sprains

At Children's Health℠, we are committed to keeping strains and sprains from interfering with your child’s life and sports activities. The team of sports medicine specialists at the Children’s Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine offers a full range of non-invasive treatments for strains and sprains.

We’ll also help your child develop a routine to prevent future strains and sprains. That way, your child can stay at the top of their game without interruption.

What are Pediatric Strains and Sprains?

Strains and sprains are injuries to your child’s muscles, ligaments, or tendons. They are a common injury in children, especially those who play sports.

Ligaments connect your child’s bones to one another. Sprains are when your child’s ligament is overly stretched.

Tendons connect your child’s muscles to their bones. Strains are when your child’s tendon is pulled. This can happen from trauma, like with a pulled hamstring. It can also happen over time, like when a dancer develops ankle tendinitis.

What are the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Strains and Sprains?

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Redness
  • A defect in the muscle or tendon tissue
  • Decreased strength or range of motion
  • Pain that gets worse with physical activity

How are Pediatric Strains and Sprains diagnosed?

Our team can diagnose strains and sprains with a physical examination and a review of your child’s medical history. Taking images of the injury can also help with diagnosis. This might include:

  • X-ray: X-rays use invisible beams to take detailed images of your child’s bones. They help us look for any potential bone fractures that might be related to a strain, sprain, or what may be misdiagnosed as one.
  • MRI: MRIs use invisible magnetic fields and radio waves to capture detailed pictures of your child’s injured joint. This can give us more information about your child’s the sprain or strain, such as how severe it is and where it is exactly.
  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Diagnostic ultrasound can describe the extent of your child’s injury, similar to an MRI.

What causes Pediatric Strains and Sprains?

Anyone can strain a muscle or sprain a joint. Turning or moving the body in sudden, awkward ways can cause the ligaments, tendons, and muscles around joints to stretch or tear. Sprains typically happen when a joint is overstretched during sudden change of directions. Strains typically happen when the muscle or tendon is overstretched, fatigued, or placed under heavy loads.

Some children are at higher risk for strains and sprains, including those who:

  • play sports with a lot of repeated motions, like jumping, running and weightlifting
  • have already had a strain or sprain are more likely to injure the area again in the future
  • do not do proper warm-ups or overtrain
  • have certain chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes
  • have nutritional deficiencies or eating disorders

How are Pediatric Strains and Sprains treated?

Most strains and sprains usually heal with rest, modifying or limiting activity, and rehabilitation. Treatments for most sprains and strains typically include:

  • Icing the area for 10-15 minutes
  • Compression and elevation
  • Pain medications, such as Tylenol® and ibuprofen
  • Immobilization, such as splinting and casting
  • Home exercise programs
  • In-house physical therapy (PT) and rehabilitation

Additional treatments for more severe strains and sprains can include:


A minimally invasive approach to repairing ligaments, tendons or muscles called an arthroscopy


Using ultrasound imaging to guide medication injections into the injury. Using ultrasound to help remove damaged tissue (for chronic strains)


We have found that the best way for us to help your child prevent strains and sprains is by properly educating and preparing them so they can protect their muscles, tendons, and ligaments while playing their sport.

Pediatric Strains and Sprains Doctors and Providers

Our team of experts includes sports medicine surgeons, sports medicine physicians, and physician assistants and nurse practitioners who all specialize in pediatric orthopedics. We’re all committed to helping your child get back to the sports and activities they love. Schedule an appointment with us today!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can my child prevent a strain or sprain?

    To prevent strains and sprains, young athletes can benefit from warm-up activities, strength and conditioning exercises, proper equipment, and avoiding overtraining.

  • Can I treat my child’s strain or sprain at home?

    Yes, mild strains and sprains can be treated at home initially. Use the RICE treatment approach for the first 48 hours:

    • Rest: Rest the injured area by limiting activity involving it
    • Ice: Ice the injured area four to eight times per day for 20 minutes at a time
    • Compression: Wrap the injured area with a compression bandage
    • Elevation: Decrease swelling by elevating the injured area so it’s above heart level