Sprains are injuries that affect ligaments, thick bands of cartilage that attach bone to bone. They occur in response to a stretch or tear of a ligament. Sprains are an acute type of injury that results from trauma such as a fall or outside force that displaces the surrounding joint from its normal alignment. Sprains can range from a mild ligamentous stretch to a complete tear. Bruising, swelling, instability, and painful movement are common symptoms experienced after a sprain occurs.