NASPE/NCAT Sport Injury Resource
The ankle joint is one of the most injured joints in the body. An ankle sprain
typically occurs due to the “rolling” of the foot when running,
pivoting, or jumping and landing on an uneven surface. Most often, the outside
ankle ligaments are injured when the foot/ankle turns or rolls inward (inversion
Ankle sprains are often graded according to the level of severity (see muscle/ligament
injuries) with varying degrees of swelling, discoloration, pain, and instability
(ligament damage). If swelling and pain are severe, seek a physical to rule
out a fracture. Many orthopedic physicians recommend sending a young athlete
for x-rays. There is a chance of disrupting a growth plate rather than spraining
a ligament when a young athlete (pre-adolescence through adolescence) sustains
an ankle injury. If the athlete cannot walk without a limp, crutches are highly
recommended to allow the joint to begin the healing process.
(0-3 days). Follow the R.I.C.E. principle with rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
After the first day of injury, early PAIN FREE movement of
the ankle is important, even if the movements are small:
- Write out the ABCs with the toe, working towards large letters
- Crunch a towel or pick up tissue paper with the toes while sitting on a chair
- Crunch a towel and move it in and out along the floor with the heel being
the pivot point
This phase begins when the athlete can begin to bear full weight with minimal
discomfort. The goal of this phase is to restore normal range of motion and
strength. Again, there should be no pain when doing all exercises. “No
Pain, No Gain” is NOT AN APPROPRIATE slogan to follow here.
Consult a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) or physical therapist (PT) for appropriate
exercises for the injury. Ice after exercise, accompanied with a wrap may still
be recommended if soreness and swelling still exist.
Some possible exercises may included:
- Continuation of exercises from Phase I with weights added to towels.
- Heel raises / slant board
- Strengthening exercises using stretch cords, partner, or weighted object
(see shin splint exercises)
- Swimming pool work
- Wobble board
- Stationary bike
This phase works on restoring functional strength, agility, and sport/exercise
specific activities. Again, consult a Certified Athletic Trainer or physical
therapist for appropriate exercises.
Some possible exercises may include:
The ankle should be taped or the athlete should wear an ankle brace during
- Increase exercises from Phase II.
- Slide board
- Running/jumping/ agility work
- Continue cardiovascular training
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