There has been a lot of research on ankle sprains as they are the most common athletic injury. It has been known for about forty years that after that first sprain, it is far more likely to have a second. In fact many people know they have chronic repetitive ankle sprains yet they don’t know what to do about it.
It is a belief amongst many of us who work with athletes that the second third and so on ankle sprain could have been avoided with a very basic rehabilitation concept. Want to hear it, well here it comes.
What is the cause of chronic ankle sprains? Most ankle sprains are eversion sprains meaning we go over the outside of our foot. When this happens, we damage the ligaments and proprioceptive fibers in the ankle.
Ligaments are avascular (No blood supply) and never heal 100%. In fact with each subsequent injury, they heal a little less than they did with the first. As a result it is paramount to prevent chronic damage to ligaments. They also provide support, and keep the joint within its operating range of motion.
Proprioceptive fibers (Fibers that tell us where we are in space/gravity) are integrated with the brain such that we know where we are in space. If these fibers are damaged they will fire later in the game thereby slowing down our reaction time to where we are in a particular range of motion.
If we damage the ligaments, the joint can become a little loose. If the proprioceptive fibers don’t engage at their normal rate, we end up going farther over the outside of the foot before we react which what…… Sprains the ankle.
What can we do about this ?
There is an answer and its been proven to be quite effective. There are numerous studies that state we can in fact reintegrate the proprioceptive function lost by in essence exercising the fibers. What we do it practice standing on one foot and trying not to wobble. If you start to wobble, stop immediately as you can inadvertently train the wobble which is counter to what we have in mind.
When you master the capacity to stand on one foot for a minute without wobbling, we enter the next phase. We are now going to perform the exercise with increasing levels of unstable surfaces. First try the half foam roller standing with the half foam roller horizontal to your foot (Running perpendicular to your arch.) After you master that, increase the instability by turning the half foam roller 90 degrees such that it runs along the bottom of your foot.
If you don’t have a half foam roller, there are a variety of products on the market from simple inflatable pads, to dense foam pads and half round balls.
In each phase, you can add movement such as moving the leg you are not standing on forward, backwards or to the side. Again this change in posture will add to the instability thereby increasing the challenge.
The evidence that this works is overwhelming. I bet you can look this up on the interthingy and find enough to confuse yourself for weeks.
I hope the above made sense and is something you can do for yourself to prevent an ankle strain from being the first of a series.
As always thanks for reading.
If you have sprained your ankle, the link below may have some useful information.