Ankle sprains are a commons sports injury that can happen to athletes in any given sports. Nicole Fontaine, a Certified Athletic Trainer with the Hartford HealthCare Sports Medicine team, explains several ways to help treat the condition and help make ankles stronger and ready to return to sport.
An ankle sprain occurs when the foot is forced past its normal limit of movement. Two common ankle sprains are inversion (when the foot is turned inward) and eversion (when the foot is turned outward). Someone with a history of ankle sprains has an increased rate of reinjuring the ankle. Although taping and wearing ankle braces are good for protection while returning from an ankle sprain, the best prevention from reinjury is to strengthen the muscles surrounding the ankle.
Closed kinetic chain exercises, those which involve standing on the involved limb, are most commonly used to incorporate the functional demands of a sport or activity. Common daily exercises used for strengthening the ankle are:
Heel Raises: Standing on both feet, raise your heels off the floor, keeping all your weight in your toes. Slowly lower back down and repeat up to 30 times. You should raise your heels for a count of 2 seconds and lower for a count of 4 seconds. If the exercise is too easy, try it one leg at a time.
Toe Raises: Standing on both feet, rock back on your heels, raising your toes off the floor. Slowly lower back down and repeat up to 30 times. You should raise your toes for a count of 2 seconds and lower for a count of 4 seconds. If the exercise is too easy, try it one leg at a time.
Single Leg Balance: Stand on one leg for 30-60 second using as little support from the upper body as possible. If this exercises is too easy, try closing your eyes or standing on an uneven surface, such as a pillow.
Anterior Reaches: Start with your feet together and your weight on your right leg. Bend the knee as if you were sitting back in a chair and reach your right foot out in front of you. Touch the heel as far forward as you can. Make sure your knee does not go past your toes or fold in towards the opposite knee. Lower slowly for a count of 4 seconds and return to standing for a count of 2 seconds. Repeat up to 30 times on both legs.
Step-Downs: Stand with both feet on the bottom step of a staircase with your weight on your right leg. Bend your right knee and lower the left foot to the ground. Do not allow your knee to go past your toes or fold in towards the opposite knee. Lower for a count of 4 seconds and tap your toe on the ground. Return to standing for a count of 2 seconds without pushing off from the ground. Repeat up to 30 times on both legs.
For more information about the sports injuries services provided by the team at Hartford HealthCare, please visit mysportshealth.org.