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Care for Sprains Strains and Contusions

What are they?

Sprain: injury to a ligament

Strain: injury to a muscle or tendon

Contusion: broken blood vessels under the skin or a "bruise"

Although the athletic training staff is highly trained in treating these injuries, it is helpful to know what you can do on your own to properly treat these conditions.  We used a method known as R.I.C.E.






The first 24-48 hours after injury are extremely important.  Weight bear as tolerated and make sure to avoid any activities that elicit pain.  Using a splint, sling, or crutches may be necessary depending on the severity of the injury.


Ice the area to decrease pain and minimize swelling.  Ice for 20 minutes at a time, taking about an hour off in between icing sessions.  Icing for more than 20 minutes at a time can actually reverse the effects and delay the tissue healing.  Another good icing method is called an ice cup massage.  Fill a paper cup with water about 3/4 of the way and put in freezer until frozen.  Rip the paper down and use to massage and ice the injured area.


Use a compression wrap or ace bandage to wrap around the injured area to reduce swelling.  The wrap should be snug but should not be so tight that it cuts off circulation.


When icing or resting, elevate the extremity above the heart to help minimize swelling.  A good example of this is putting your ankle up on a pillow while laying down and resting or icing.