Ankle sprains are the most common injuries in sports. One misstep can damage your joint and land you on the sidelines. Fortunately, people can help prevent ankle injuries with a mobility, stability and strength in three steps.
Before we go into the three ways to prevent ankle injuries, we need to understand the anatomy of the foot and ankle.
The ankle is a mobile joint, which is supported by muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Seven muscles extend the ankle, four go to the ankle and four support the inside and outside of the joint. However, with all of this mobility, sometimes we pay the price of stability.
The most common type of ankle sprain that people experience is when the foot rolls inward. This is called an inversion ankle sprain.
The ankle is vulnerable for sprains when the toes are down and foot is pointed inwards. At the same time, the ankle is built to move easily into this position. So, to prevent ankle injuries, we have to train to counteract it by strengthening muscle groups that oppose this movement.
To prevent ankle sprains, you must improve mobility by reducing tightness and stiffness on the inside of the calf. Try to perform a massage with a stick, foam roller or tennis ball.
The next step is to increase single-leg joint stability. Perform exercises that involve standing on one leg and reaching the other leg behind the body or sideways to activate the lateral calf muscle, which is an ankle stabilizer.
The last step is toe walks. Simply walk on your toes, specifically your big toes. This alignment exercise strengthens the lateral part of the calf and teaches the ankle to load the big toe. If the force is on the outside part of the foot, it’s more likely to roll.
Typically these steps are performed only after an athlete injures an ankle and is preparing to return to competition. Instead of waiting for an ankle injury, perform these steps as part of a warm-up, rest station or cool-down, before an injury occurs. The greatest predictor of injury is previous injury.
Of course, if you have a history of foot and ankle problems, before you do any exercises, you should see a foot and ankle doctor who can help you put together a warm-up program.
Remember, any type of foot or ankle pain is never normal. A foot and ankle doctor can examine your feet and give you the best course of action.