If you play any kind of sport, you are at risk for an ankle injury. Sprains, strains, and fractures happen to professional athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and casual players alike. Fully half of all ankle sprains occur during a sports activity.
Follow the tips below to limit your risk.
Men between the ages of 15 and 24 are most at risk for ankle injury—and probably the least likely to take a few minutes to warm up before athletic activity. A few minutes of stretching and/or slow jogging prepares the ligaments, tendons, and muscles of the ankle for more vigorous activity.
Wear the right shoes.
Both your foot type and the activity in which you’re participating make a difference in what shoes you should wear. Basketball players and trail runners need different kinds of support for their feet and ankles. Additionally, the type of foot and the type of gait you have will impact the shoe you should be wearing.
Dr. E. Charisse Dunn of PGA Foot & Ankle provides information to each of her patients about which shoes will be best to avoid injury.
Replace your shoes when necessary.
When your shoes wear out, get new ones. Experts recommend replacing your shoes every six months or so, but that varies depending on your activity and how often you do it. Discuss what sports you participate in and how often you do each activity with Dr. Dunn, and she will advise you on how frequently you should replace your shoes.
Condition for your sport.
Just like different activities require different types of shoes, different sports call for specific conditioning. If, for example, you usually play baseball on the weekends, but you’re trying out a new neighborhood soccer league, increase the time you spend playing soccer slowly so that your muscles have time to adjust to the new movements.
Do exercises specifically to strengthen your ankles.
There are ways to strengthen your ankles, and though these exercises will never be as popular as the bicep curl, they might just protect you from injury. Dr. Dunn will show you which exercises are going to be most helpful for you, but the following are a few possibilities.
- Ankle circles are easy and can be done anywhere. Do both clockwise and counter-clockwise circles with each ankle to get the most benefit.
- Less well-known but also effective is the ankle alphabet. Simply pretend you are writing the alphabet with your big toe.
- Calf raises are good for more than strong calf muscles! This easy exercise also strengthens your ankles.
- Shin raises are the opposite of calf raises. You raise your toes off the ground instead of your heels.
Take adequate time to recover.
Often, an injury feels healed before it fully is, and the primary risk factor for ankle injury is a previous ankle injury. In other words, once you have strained, sprained, or fractured your ankle, you are more likely to have another ankle injury in the future.
Carefully and thoroughly follow Dr. Dunn’s instructions following an injury in order to limit the chance of re-injury.
Use a brace or tape, if necessary.
If you have injured your ankle in the past, Dr. Dunn may suggest that you wear an ankle brace or use athletic tape for extra support. That extra support could mean the difference between re-injury and happy playing.
Pay attention to how you feel.
If your ankle hurts when you move a certain way, or if you have pain following a specific activity, take note. You don’t necessarily have to stop the sport you enjoy, but you should discuss your concerns with Dr. Dunn. You may need to do exercises to strengthen your ankle, wear a brace, or take a rest.
You may eventually find that some activities are off-limits, but maybe not. You certainly want to take steps to protect your ankles, though.
Get proper care.
A final, critical step in taking good care of your ankles is getting proper medical care. If you’ve twisted your ankle, or you feel a twinge with every jump, book an appointment with Dr. Dunn to make make sure the twist or twinge doesn’t become a sprain or strain.