An ankle sprain is one of the more common sports injuries encountered by both the recreational and competitive athlete. It is also an injury which can easily become recurrent without adequate treatment and follow-up. There are simple stretching, strengthening and balance exercises which can be incorporated into the warm-up and cool-down routine as a form of prevention.
I BALANCING EXERCISES
- Standing on one foot while doing simple movements of the arms and non-weight bearing leg is a simple way in which to improve your balance reactions.
- Standing on one leg with the non-weight bearing leg in the air behind you and the arms in the air out to the side (as if you were flying). Turn your body left and right slowly while your supporting leg remains on the ground maintaining your balance. This exercise should only be used if you are able to do exercise #1 without difficulty. The height from the floor of the arms and leg will increase the difficulty of this exercise.
II STRETCHING EXERCISES
- Gastrocnemius Stretch: Standing with one leg straight behind you and the other leg bent in front of you in a slight lunge position. The hands can be placed on a wall or railing for support. The knee of the back leg remains straight and the heel remains on the ground. By bending the front leg, the hips will move forward to stretch the heel cord (gastrocnemius muscle) of the ankle. Hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds, relax and continue for 2 minutes on each leg.
- Soleus Stretch: Position as described above. Bring your back leg slightly forward. With this stretch, the knee can be bent to stretch the soleus muscle in the calf.
III STRENGTHENING EXERCISES
- A thick elastic band called Theraband, tubing, or an old bicycle tube can be used for strengthening the ankle. The elastic band is tied around a supporting structure such as a railing or leg of a couch. Sit on a chair and place your foot in the loop of the elastic band. Keeping the heel on the ground with the knee stationary, the forefoot pulls to the outside to strengthen the muscles on the outer part of the lower leg. Pull against the rubber band, hold for a few seconds and return to the neutral position slowly. Switching sides to pull against the rubber band towards the inside of the leg will strengthen the other side of the ankle. These exercises can be repeated for one minute on each side of the ankle.
Balance reactions, strength and flexibility are all components which are diminished following an ankle sprain. These exercises can be used for prevention and are incorporated along with other methods into the physiotherapy treatment for the ankle sprain.