How to Prevent Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are downright both a terrible experience, and worse, they can happen and recur too easily. Especially if left untreated or as many patients think “ankle sprains can heal on their own”.

If you have sprained your ankle once, it is at greater risk for reinjury in the future, so if the ligaments did not heal properly or if your ankle never returned to its normal strength. And if you return to sports or other activities too soon after injury, your ankle might give you persistent pain or might easily or frequently reinjure.

After treating thousands of ankle sprains, we can tell you that maybe 10-20% can help fully on its own, but many will become a recurrent ankle sprain pattern, where patients undergo ankle sprains again and again and again. Some factors that contribute to risk of ankle sprains are

  • body weight (heavier = higher chances of sprains)
  • female gender
  • muscle weakness
  • ligamental / joint weakness
  • balance issues
  • foot and ankle problems

Read more in the ankle sprain article here.

Three components to an active and strong ankle

Strength

Ankle strengthening exercises can include

  • standing tip-toe exercises
  • single leg standing on stable surface
  • resisted ankle press, lifts, eversion and inversion
  • wall squats

Flexibility

  • ankle circles: sit on a chair and cross your leg. Then circle your ankle in a rotation, both clockwise and anti-clockwise (you can also use your hand to stretch more)
  • achilles stretch: in standing with one leg front and the other back, place your weight on your front foot and lean forward until you feel a stretch in your back leg
  • towel stretch: have a towel in hand, and sit with your legs outstretched. Placed the towel behind one leg and with both hands, pull the towel towards you to stretch

Balance

Prevent an ankle sprain or ankle reinjury

  1. Warm up effectively before any sporting/athletic activities. You can consider in the first 10-15 minutes before the activity begin:
    • light jogging on the spot
    • do lighter version of the sports/activity eg if you’re a runner, you can consider light jogs or brisk walking to warm up the muscles and joints involved with running
  2. Use appropriate footwear that is best for specific activities eg
    • basketball shoes for basketball games
    • tennis shoes for tennis games
    • jogging shoes for jogging
    • etc
  3. Use ankle wraps or braces as directed by a physiotherapist. Resist the urge to buy one to support specific joints without consulting an experienced physiotherapist as wraps, supports and braces can oversupport or undersupport structures, leading to strains and injuries later down the road.
  4. Perform specific balance and strength exercises several times per week regularly. This is often underlooked and ignored, as people think “doing/participating in the sport is exercise enough” which is not sufficient at all. You need to consider the strength component, the stretching and flexibility component as well as cardiovascular component ON TOP of the form of the sport.
  5. Train gradually for months before any sports events. We have treated patients who signed up for marathons just a couple of days before the event, thinking they can “wing it”. Well they possibly can if they take it really easy, like light walking the most of the way…but many of them develop lots of injuries and pains simply because their bodies weren’t trained and condition for it. Of course there are those that overtrain too, which is a totally different problem in the other direction of undertraining.
  6. Maintain a healthy body weight by avoiding calorie-dense/deficient-nutrient foods ie eat whole foods like vegetables and avoid refined or white starches like bakes, bread, rice and noodles. Exercise regularly and avoid drinking calories.

Where To Next?

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