Ankle Sprains: How to Heal, Strengthen and Prevent Them

Ankle Sprains, the bane of all athletes, if you get one of these you can be out of competition for up to 4- 6 weeks. At worst you can be out for 3-6 months when fractures or breaks occur.

The Best Way to Recover

The road to recovery starts with RICE. Not the rice you eat mind you, but the acronym for it. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate. When you sprain your ankle you should start RICE as soon as possible to reduce inflammation and dull the pain. During the RICE process, try to ice your leg up to 20 minutes in an elevated position for the best result. The ice will help compress blood vessels, the rest will keep more blood from flowing towards the ankle, the compression will help vasocompress the blood vessels, and the elevation will have gravity do the work for you.

The Best Way to Strengthen

After proper rest and making sure that the inflammation has gone down we can now start on ankle rehab, which is the process of getting your ankle up to strength again. After spraining those ligaments in your ankle and having your ankle on rest for a couple of weeks the strength of the ankle will
have diminished. The ligaments of the ankle will now be weaker so you have to strengthen the surrounding muscle groups to stabilize the ankle joint. Ankle rehab exercises are fairly simple and done at most clinics you would usually go to. Some good exercises would be 4 way ankle, baps board or bosu ball circles, calf raises, towel scrunches (pulling or pushing the towel by curling your toes), unstable single leg balance, compass reaches (balancing on your bad ankle reach out in each of the 8 directions
with your other leg), heel and toe walks and many other exercises.

The Best Way to Prevent Them

Functional movements that move the ankle in all directions to keep it mobile and strong should be our top priority. If your an athlete, think about all the movements that occur at the ankle while you play your sport. Jumping off one or two feet, shuffling, kicking a ball or even sprinting. We should practice these movements in a more controlled setting when were not playing our sport so our bodies learn the movement pattern and can do it efficiently. If you are not an athlete, practice the movements that you do everyday such as walking upstairs or just focus on the heel to toe movement of your walk. The more active your ankle is the lower the risk of it weakening and re-rolling. When climbing stairs use a stronger push off of your toes when ascending the stairs. When you work out, include ankle rehab! It will continue to keep your ankle strong. If you are an athlete and need to continue practicing/playing even when your ankle is not 100%, I would think about investing in an ankle brace. About 75% of athletes who have rolled their ankle once will most likely re-roll their ankle again. From there, roughly 50% of those athletes start to suffer chronic instability of the ankle joint and are prone to re-rolling their ankle up to 5-6 times a year. Studies have shown that the use of a brace with a steady ankle rehab program can significantly bring down the chances of an athlete rolling their ankle. It also increases the chances of treating chronic ankle instability which can save you a lifetime of pain in the future.

Published by Jeffrey Spagnolo

B.A. Exercise Physiology, Athletic Training Assistant, Sports Medicine Student, Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, Personal Trainer

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