It’s march madness and everyone is tuning in to watch the big name schools compete and hopefully see some underdog upsets (Let’s Go U Penn!). As the competition intensifies I feel like almost every year we see an athlete roll their ankle or even break it. A sprained ankle, though often not serious, can be very inconvenient and prevent you from doing your daily activities, or getting back in the game. So for the athletes out there or the klutzy people who seem to always trip on a flat surface, here are some tips to prevent rolling and spraining your ankle.
1. Flexibility: This does not only include your ankle, but also your knees, hips, and trunk. For example if you perform a sudden or explosive movement, and you’re joints are not flexible to accommodate the movement, the ankle might bear the brunt and roll.
2. Ankle Strengthening: Your muscles, in addition to the tendons and ligaments, help to keep the ankle stable. By strengthening the muscles around the ankle, your improving your own built-in stability system and reduce the risk of rolling your ankle. One of the best exercises for strengthening the ankle is heel raises. You can also progress this activity to toe walking and heel walking.
3. Balance: If you’re already wobbling on your feet with just walking or standing, you’re risk of rolling your ankle is much higher. Some easy exercises to improve your balance is trying to stand on 1 leg or standing with your feet positioned heel to toe for 10-30 sec. If you feel unsafe performing this activity, maybe its time to visit your PT for some further balance training.
4. Bracing: This may be appropriate for those who chronically roll their ankles or are coming off an ankle sprain/fracture. The negative aspect of bracing is that you start to rely on an external item instead of your built in muscles and tendons. The last thing you want is to brace when the problem could be fixed with the above tips. However if you feel the above techniques have not helped I would recommend speaking to an athletic trainer or physical therapist before starting. If you play a sport where the team requires it (like many basketball teams). I would recommend going to your local drug store and purchasing a brace that laces up above the ankle and has some rigidity. If its too loose then it won’t be able to provide any stability.
If you do sprain your ankle or find yourself losing your balance and/or falling a lot, I would first recommend to see your doctor or physical therapist. A physical therapist can safely progress you so that you can return to sport or every day activities quicker and with less risk of re-injury.