Welcome to Stay in the Game, a monthly blog where the team from The Queen's Health Systems share the latest tips on the treatment and prevention of sports injuries. We want to help you play hard and be well - a winning combination that will keep you in the game all season long.

Ankle sprain: The most common sports injury - Part 2

Last month, we explained the different grades of sprains and how to best treat ankle injuries immediately after it happens and beyond. This month, Ryan Moore, physical therapist at the Queen's Center for Sports Medicine, continues talking about the most common sports injury, the ankle sprain, and what can be done to reduce one's risk.

Question 1: What are some risk factors for ankle sprains?

Ryan Moore, DPT: A previous ankle sprain is the best predictor for a future ankle sprain. In fact, those who have previously sprained an ankle, are TWICE as likely to re-sprain that same ankle when compared to those athletes who have not.  

Research has also shown that those with a history of a previous ankle sprain, who did not participate in a balance training program, are also at a greater risk for ankle sprain.

A proper, dynamic warm-up prior to activity may also reduce your risk for injury.  

Question 2: What are some helpful things early after I sprain my ankle?

Ryan Moore, DPT: For acute ankle sprains, an external support such as a brace may be temporarily used as an athlete is able to progressively bear weight. Early weight bearing with support has been shown to speed up recovery time.

Also, intermittent applications of ice and elevation for 15-20 minutes can be helpful to reduce pain, reduce the need for pain medication and improve weight-bearing tolerance.  

Question 3: What is proprioception and how does it affect my ankle?

Ryan Moore, DPT: Proprioception is your body's ability to sense movement within the joint. Proprioceptors relay information regarding where a joint is in space without having to look at that body part. It is one of many components of our balance system.

When these proprioceptors become damaged through injury, it can become increasingly difficult to tell where your foot and ankle are relative to your body as you move and change positions.

Question 4: What are some exercises I can do to reduce my risk for future ankle sprains?

Ryan Moore, DPT: Here are three exercises you can do to strengthen both ankles, even if one ankle is more prone to sprains. If possible, perform these exercises barefoot to improve your ability to feel your foot in contact with the ground.

Seated ankle proprioception ball control

  • Keeping your foot in contact with the ball, slowly roll the ball forward and back, or side to side.  The idea is to slowly reintroduce range of motion with some gentle weight-bearing.  As you improve, you can increase the speed of the movements. Perform for 1 minute, 2-3 times.

Single leg balance on airex pad

  • Stand on an unstable surface for 20-30 seconds, for 3-5 sets.  Keep your hips level, toes on the ground, with a nice supple arch that doesn’t collapse.
  • In the clinic, we use foam balance pads, but a good alternative for home can be to use a thicker pillow cushion.
  • You can progress this exercise by closing your eyes, or moving your hand slowly to your nose and then away from you.

Single leg 3-way toe-touch (forward, lateral, backward)

  • Standing on the right leg with knee slightly bent, reach forward as far as you can to touch your left toes to the ground.
  • Move back to the starting position, and then reach out laterally to touch your toes as far as you can to your side while maintaining your balance.
  • Move back to the starting position, and then  reach backward as far as you can to touch your toes to the ground behind you.
  • Each time, keep the hips level, toes on the ground, foot arch up and stop the knee from caving in.  Go around 5 times, for 2-3 sets.

If you know an athlete who may have suffered a sprained ankle, have them contact the Queen’s Center for Sports Medicine for information or to schedule an appointment at 808-691-4449.

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