How to Reduce Your Risk of Ankle Sprains

Have you every sprained your ankle?  If you played sports at all growing up or now, you likely sprained an ankle.  Ankle sprains are reported as one of the most common sports-related injuries (Herzog et al., 2019) accounting for over 50% of basketball injuries (Fong, Hong, Chan, Yung, & Chan, 2007).  Playing soccer mostly as a child through college, I had a few along the way.  For some people, they seem to get ankle sprains more easily than others.  Let’s look into some of the reasons why and what causes ankle sprains in the first place.

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Ankle sprains can occur on the middle and side part of your foot.  73% of ankle sprains occur to the lateral aspect of the joint (Raghava Neelapala et al., 2016).  Sprains occur when your foot turns inward during a step with enough force to cause a trauma to it.  This can be done while walking and tripping, making a cut during an athletic activity, or instability in your footwear (high heels).  You know it the instant the sprain happens.

Typically resting, icing, compression, and elevation (RICE) is an acceptable treatment for a sprain.  After a few days you test how much stress the ankle can take and make your best judgement on when to resume sports participation or wear those stiletto heels again.  Without proper healing time and making certain adjustments in your training, you can develop chronic ankle instability.  Several risk factors for ankle sprains and chronic ankle instability have been identified, including previous sprain (Morrison & Kaminski, 2007), increased arch height, or a supinated foot type as well as footwear, intrinsic muscle weakness, and even glute weakness (Friel, McLean, Myers, & Caceres, 2006), according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

The way to build up ankle strength is doing exercises that increase proprioception.  Proprioception is how your body reacts to various stimulus in space, like standing on one foot with your eyes closed.  Anyone can increase foot and ankle proprioception by working on their balance doing simple tasks like washing dishes.  In the gym, try doing your normal standing type exercises on balancing on each foot for a set.  You can also do these activities barefoot to force the muscles in your feet to react and strengthen. Single leg balance and other types of proprioceptive training have been shown to be effective at enhancing ankle joint stability (DiStefano, Clark, & Padua, 2009). Barefoot stimulation and intrinsic foot muscle strengthening has also recently gained attention as an effective way to enhance ankle joint stability and position sense (de Villiers & Venter, 2014).

From experience, these small changes in your workout routine pay big dividends!  Older populations lose their balance more easily and are susceptible to broken hips and other broken bones in the arms and shoulders from impact.  Once you fall, your chances of falling again are guaranteed.  Build balance movements into your routine for all ages.  The same exercise has a completely different feel when you do. 

Working with a trainer or corrective exercise specialist like myself can help you integrate these types of movements safely and effectively.  To learn what a comprehensive corrective exercise program can do for you, contact me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com, and go to mattpeale.com.  Who is a corrective exercise program good for?  Everyone!  We are all athletes in the game of life, it’s time you treated yourself like it!

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