Ankle sprains are generally regarded as the most common sports-related injury and are, consequently, the #1 reason for lost time in athletics. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 in 17 high school athletes will suffer an ankle sprain per season. Yikes! Those are better odds than a lot of games in Vegas. As an athletic trainer, injury prevention is my top priority, so I’ve come up with a list of 5 ways to reduce your chance of experiencing (or re-experiencing) an ankle sprain.
1. Balance Training
By improving your ability to balance, you’re honing your body’s proprioception or ability to control itself in all types of positions. One of the easiest ways to work on your balance is to, stick with me here, balance on one foot. I encourage people to try and stand on one foot while brushing their teeth in the morning and the other at night. Once that gets easy, you can progress towards closing your eyes, standing on a pillow, or continuously hopping on one foot. Pro tip: you might not want to do that last one while brushing your teeth.
2. Ankle Strengthening
A lot of people feel unstable in their ankles with everyday activities, and I’ve found that many of them have weak muscles surrounding their ankle joint. If any of the muscles around your ankle are weak, especially those that are on the outside, you’ll be much more likely to suffer a sprain. One of the easiest ways to improve ankle strength is to take a towel and wrap it around your foot to give yourself resistance as you move your foot up, down, in, and out. If you’ve experienced a rolled ankle or are concerned with your weak ankles, you can always consult with an athletic trainer, physical therapist, or your doctor for a customized home-exercise program.
How does the song go? The ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone…I’m not so sure about the anatomical accuracy of that, but lack of motion along the legs, hip, or torso can lead to awkward movements, which can predispose you to an ankle sprain and other injuries. There are several resources available for helping you decide on a stretching and mobility routine. Find a routine that works for you and stick with it.
4. Taping and Bracing
The theory as to whether ankle taping and bracing are effective in ankle injury prevention has been debated for decades, but the latest research shows that these methods work well and with no ill side effects. Some athletes feel that taping and bracing slows them down, which makes for a difficult cost/benefit analysis. If taping or bracing is something you feel may be good for you, I’d encourage you to check out some braces at a sporting goods store or talk to an athletic trainer about getting taped up to see how it feels.
5. Adequate Preparation for Activity
This is a tough subject to broach, but we need to talk about how ready you are for activity. Drastic changes in activity level and performing unpracticed skills expose your body to injury. If you’re a weekend warrior, it has probably been a decade or two or three since you’ve been a regular participant in competitive sports. Remember that fact when you’re rounding third base to beat out a 16-inch softball hurled at home plate. All of us need to be adequately prepared for activity, which means gradually building up your activity level and competing within your current limitations. Don’t look at this as a barrier as much as a call to be consistently involved in physical activity. Your ankle joints will thank me.
Nothing can guarantee that you’ll never sprain an ankle, but addressing these 5 issues will help keep you on top of your game. If you’ve had an ankle sprain and need a complimentary injury screen from Athletico, click the button below.
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