/ by Johnna Yeager, LAT, ATC
Every athlete and coach alike has experienced the wrath of an ankle sprain on some level. In fact, ankle sprains account for almost half of all injuries in sports, according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.
Once an individual has experienced one ankle sprain, the likelihood that person will have another is incredibly high. The question on everyone’s mind after an ankle injury is how do we prevent it from happening again?
There are many ways to prevent an ankle sprain, so here are a few easy steps that can make a huge impact.
- Stretching: Athletes with a tight heel cord are more likely to suffer ankle sprains. They should stretch their calves every day when they wake up, before exercise and before bed every night for 30 to 45 seconds at least twice.
- Strengthening: One of the biggest factors for ankle instability is weakness of the joint. A few exercises athletes can do daily are:
- Calf raises: Start by using both legs at the same time and progress to one leg at a time as strength increases.
- Inversion and eversion: Tie resistance band to something sturdy. To resist to the inside (inversion), place foot in the band with it against the inside of the foot, then point toes to the opposite foot and repeat. Do this in three sets of 10. Then, to resist to the outside (eversion), place the resistance band on the outside of the foot and point toes the opposite way.
- Balance exercises: Balance is something most people forget, but balance is crucial to stability. This exercise can be beneficial:
- Stand on one foot. Make sure to be on a stable and even surface with something to hold on to just in case. It’s OK at first to cheat a little with the other foot or to hold on to something stable. Then, progress to standing alone on the stable surface, reaching down to touch the ground and coming back up again. After that, try standing on a pillow.
- Taping and bracing: It’s not recommended to wear an ankle brace or to tape your ankle all the time. But if an athlete is returning to play after an ankle injury, then one of these options may be needed. Neither is better than the other – it just depends on what the athlete feels safe in.