How to Prevent Ankle Sprains This Winter Sport Season
Winter sports such as AFL, soccer, netball and basketball are now up and running. With many athletes returning to their sports after long breaks due to COVID, it is important that athletes place a bigger emphasis on injury prevention programs and proper warm-up / cool-down regimes.
(Advanced Foot & Ankle Care Centers, 2021)
Amongst all sports, ankle sprains are a very common injury. A “sprain” of your ankle means a ligament has been overstretched and torn to some degree, which is reflected by the grade of the sprain. Lateral ankle sprains involving the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) account for 75% of all ankle sprains. (1) This occurs when the ankle rolls outwards and the foot rolls inwards whilst toes are pointed, which is called inversion and plantarflexion of the ankle.
(ProSport Physical Therapy, 2020)
What can I do to help prevent spraining my ankle?
Injury prevention programs with structured strength and neuromuscular components reduce injury rates by up to 30%! (2) Injury prevention exercises should be performed in warm ups of 10-20 minutes long to benefit long-term performance. (3)
Examples of some components of these exercises should include:
On soft surfaces to increase difficulty
Single leg balance training
Eyes open / eyes closed +/- head turns
Functional movements (e.g. throwing) whilst balancing on one leg
Mobility / flexibility training
Ankle joint mobilisations
Double and single leg calf raises
Eversion / inversion strengthening with resistance band
Single leg hopping and landing
Lateral movements with landing
My ankles feel weak, should I tape my ankles up?
There is mixed evidence for the efficacy of ankle taping and bracing. Research shows that taping may decrease recurrent ankle sprains (but not necessarily prevent an initial sprain). (4) This is likely due to the taping increasing proprioception (awareness of one’s body in space).
Don't let an ankle sprain prevent you from playing sport this winter!
Get in touch for your individualised assessment and prevention strategies.
Herzog, M. M., Kerr, Z. Y., Marshall, S. W., & Wikstrom, E. A. (2019). Epidemiology of Ankle Sprains and Chronic Ankle Instability. Journal of athletic training, 54(6), 603–610. https://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-447-17
Sadigursky et al. (2017) BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation 9:18
Van den Tillaar, R., Vatten, T., & Von Heimburg, E. (2017). Effects of Short or Long Warm-up on Intermediate Running Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Vol. 31(1), pp.37-44. DOI:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001489.
McKay GD, Goldie PA, Payne WR, Oakes BW. (2001). Ankle injuries in basketball: injury rate and risk factors. Br J Sports Med. 35:103–108.