Updated: Jan 28
Ankle injuries are extremely common for athletes; football, basketball, soccer, tennis, and running are the sports associated with the most ankle injuries. By taking these proactive measures, active individuals can prevent ankle injuries, ensure their athletic longevity and improve their overall health.
Warm up prior to activities
Stretching and completing warm-up exercises are critical components of sports injury prevention. Implementing a warm-up routine can quickly and effectively prepare the body for strenuous activities. Over 30% of injuries seen by sports medicine clinics could have been prevented had the individual warmed up. Performing such movements can ease stiffness, lubricate your joints to restore full range of motion, and increase blood flow to the muscles that you will be working. There are certain exercises that are more effective depending on the planned activities. Active warm-ups are the most common type to improve the manner in which the body utilizes oxygen without depleting your energy. Most experts recommend performing dynamic stretches prior to exercise and implementing functional exercises to move the body in a way that imitates the upcoming movements, such as walking lunges prior to running or body-weight squats in advance of weightlifting (3). Such activities allow for the adoption of muscle memory, which can help prevent injury. Studies have shown that 79% of participants reported improved performance following warmups (3). Light warm-ups and stretching should be performed to promote mobility and ease discomfort.
Increase ankle strength
Building strength is an important preventative measure. Strengthening the muscles around your lower leg, such as the peroneals that run down the fibula on the outside of the leg and attach to various locations of the foot, can reduce the risk of injury (2). Additionally, building up ankle strength through exercises such as squats, lunges, and banded workouts helps to foster a stronger base that makes it easier to control changes in body and foot position.
Choose Proper Footwear
Selecting athletic shoes according to your foot type can decrease the likelihood of injury. In sports like basketball, wearing high-top sneakers and lacing them securely can help keep your ankle from rolls and sprains. Those whose feet pronate or have low arches should choose shoes with support on both the front of the shoe and under the arch. People with stiffer feet or high arches would benefit more from cushioning shoes with a softer platform (5). Additionally, different shoes will be more or less beneficial according to the activity. Since high-quality shoes get worn out over time, replacing them when the tread wears out or the heels wear down (typically every six months) is crucial to prevent injury.
Support the ankle by wearing a brace or taping
Supporting the ankle during activity by wearing an ankle brace or using tape can provide protection and minimize the possibility of injury. This can also promote feedback so that you respect your body’s boundaries while active (1). Tape notoriously loosens within about 30 minutes, rendering it virtually useless by the end of the warm-up. Rigid braces provide adequate protection but inhibit players from performing to the best of their abilities. They may also limit mobility, leading to compensation in other joints, such as the knee. Rheopro braces provide a method to safeguard the ankle by offering support without limiting range of motion, allowing players to achieve optimal performance without jeopardizing their health.
In addition to warming up before athletic activity, research has indicated that stretching regularly can help prevent ankle injuries such as sprains. Stretches strengthen and improve the range of motion of the ankle joint. Stretches also increase blood flow and enables the muscles to work more effectively. A flexible (and strong) ankle has a smaller chance of injury because loose joints can react quickly.
The human body has the ability to defend itself against musculoskeletal injuries. It is imperative that athletes learn to employ their inherent defense mechanisms and take additional action to protect themselves. Ankle injuries are extremely widespread and thus demand proactive and protective measures. To learn more about the regularity of ankle injuries and the damaging effects they pose to athletes, visit our article.
1. Admin. “6 Ways to Prevent Ankle Sprains.” Athletico, October 24, 2022. https://www.athletico.com/2016/11/29/6-ways-prevent-ankle-sprains/.
2. “Care and Prevention of Ankle Sprains.” US Youth Soccer. Accessed December 24, 2022. https://www.usyouthsoccer.org/news/care_and_prevention_of_ankle_sprains/.
3. Dr. Hamed Jafary, DPM. “Can Warming up Prevent Foot and Ankle Injuries?” Foot and Ankle Blog. University Foot and Ankle Institute, December 6, 2022. https://www.footankleinstitute.com/blog/warm-up-exercises-prevent-foot-and-ankle-injuries/.
4. “How to Prevent Another Ankle Sprain: 5 Proactive Steps: The Orthopedic Institute of NJ.” The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey, November 4, 2021. https://orthopedicnj.com/news/how-to-prevent-ankle-sprain.
5. UCSF Health. “Tips for Preventing Foot and Ankle Injuries.” ucsfhealth.org. UCSF Health, June 24, 2022. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/tips-for-preventing-foot-and-ankle-injuries.