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The Prevalence of Ankle Injuries in Sports

Updated: Feb 1, 2023



Ankle injuries are the most prevalent sports-related injury, with nearly 30,000 incidences every day in the United States. It is estimated that more than 45% of all sports-related injuries involve the ankle and associated structures. Despite the considerable amount of ankle injuries documented annually, the actual incidence is likely even higher, as many afflicted athletes fail to seek proper medical attention (1). Ankle sprains can be generally classified as lateral ligament complex (inversion) sprains, medial ligament complex (eversion/ deltoid ligament) sprains, and distal tibiofibular joint (high ankle syndesmosis) sprains. In addition to the loss of physical activity directly following an ankle injury, there are significant potential long-term implications. 75% of lateral ankle sprains result in recurrent injuries and chronic instability. Most athletes experiencing lateral ankle sprains return to physical activity within six weeks but report enduring pain, instability, and impaired function (1).


Approximately 3 million Americans visit the Emergency Department (ED) for ankle injuries annually. Ankle injuries compose the largest percentage of recurrent musculoskeletal injuries, with previous sprains documented as the most significant indication of a recurrent injury. An analysis of ED data divulged that such injuries are pervasive among young (ages 15 to 19) and physically active individuals (1). The distal tibiofibular joint, along with the surrounding bony and ligamentous structures, fosters a durable bulwark against internal impact. Therefore, sprains in this region commonly result from direct contact, which players often endure during vigorous competition. Ankle injuries frequently occur during activities that place substantial demand on the distal tibiofibular joint, including jumping or landing on another individual’s foot, which results in involuntary ankle dorsiflexion and external rotation of the foot. A study of 25 National Collegiate Athletic Association sports revealed that player contact represents 60.4% of high ankle sprain injuries, while non-contact injuries constitute a much lower number of sprains (17.5%) (2). The highest ankle injury rates are reported in girls’ basketball, boys’ basketball, girls’ soccer, and boys’ football (3). Direct athlete contact in such activities can conceivably result in players landing on one another, forcing the foot to rotate externally. Re-injury rates are significantly higher in dangerous sports; for example, basketball has a lateral ankle sprain re-injury rate of 73% (1).


Ankle injuries can result in considerable time lost from participation in physical activities. Lateral ligament complex ankle strains are the most commonly reported ankle injury, but are fairly minor, with a mean of 8.1 days of recovery. More frequent, medial ankle sprains result in 10.7 days of missed physical activity. High ankle sprains comprise the smallest portion of ankle injuries but result in the longest rehabilitation period (13.9 days). 47.1% of high ankle sprains result in more than one week of missed physical activity, with 15.8% of collegiate athletes requiring 3 weeks of convalescence following a high ankle sprain (2). There are more dire, long-term effects for players who sustain ankle injuries. 4 out of 10 individuals may develop persistent instability following an initial sprain. 85% of adults with osteoarthritis (OA) of the ankle note a history of lateral ankle sprains (1). The probability of developing post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA) may be higher following high ankle sprains. The prevalence and persistence of ankle injuries among athletes necessitate a revision of how such injuries are assessed and treated in the long term to facilitate a smooth recovery and lower reinjury rate.


Many orthopedists and physical therapists recommend taping or bracing to enhance ankle stability as the athlete regains strength and returns to his/ her normal activities. Many athletes opt for tape, as they find braces to be extremely restrictive, uncomfortable, and a hindrance to optimal performance (1). However, tape has various drawbacks as well: taping is a time-consuming process, with most conventional tapes unable to provide sufficient support and withstand the accumulation of sweat that naturally occurs during high-energy sports.


At RheoHero, we developed a product that blends the functional components of both tape and braces while eliminating their adverse features. The rheopro ankle brace consists of two main units: a tailored compression ankle sleeve and a patent-pending composite strap system. The compression ankle sleeve mimics athletic tape by offering a tight fit that conforms to the ankle, no matter the size. The innovative composite strap system provides durable support against ankle strains without constraining mobility. The strap’s non-stretchable and stretchable polyester components support the ankle against plantar-flexion and enable the user to adjust the strap’s tension. Rheopro’s unique design features make the brace snug like ankle tape and 50% more lightweight than conventional braces without diminished support.


Ankle sprains are widespread yet extremely debilitating injuries that may result in a significant immediate reduction in sports participation time. Failing to respond to such injuries properly may result in recurrent injuries and a player’s long-term reduction in health. The rheopro ankle brace is designed to stabilize the ankle and prevent hyperextension during athletic activity while providing the comfort and mobility athletes need to perform at their peak.




Sources

1. G Javier, Cavazos Jr., and Harkless Lawrence B. “The Epidemiology, Evaluation, and Assessment of Lateral Ankle Sprains in Athletes.” Journal of Sports Medicine and Therapy 6, no. 2 (2021): 008–17. https://doi.org/10.29328/journal.jsmt.1001052.

2. “Implications of High Ankle Sprains in College Athletes: Lower Extremity Review Magazine.” Lower Extremity Review Magazine | Rehabilitation • Trauma • Diabetes • Biomechanics • Sports Medicine, November 20, 2017. https://lermagazine.com/article/implications-of-high-ankle-sprains-in-college-athletes.

3. Kerr, Zachary Y., Aliza K. Nedimyer, Janet E. Simon, Melissa K. Kossman, R.O. Corbett, and Avinash Chandran. “The Epidemiology of Ankle Sprains in United States High School Sports, 2011/12-2018/19 Academic Years.” Journal of Athletic Training, 2022. https://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-0664.21.


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