Lateral ankle sprains are one of the most common orthopedic injuries that can occur. Not surprisingly, these sprains are often involved with high activity levels. While the exact causes and preceding factors can’t exactly be teased out, research has provided some momentum towards possible reasons that make ankle sprains more common to some opposed to others. Let’s consider some of the reasons, understand them and then see what we can do about it!
- Limited Dorsiflexion
- Poor Balance
- Poor Muscular Reaction Time
- Poor Cardiorespiratory Fitness
Limited Dorsiflexion: Limited what? Dorsiflexion is basically a fancy word to describe the motion your foot makes when you lift it toward the ceiling. Basically, if this motion is limited, it means your calf muscles may be tight and should probably be loosened up.
Poor Balance: Poor balance could mean different things to different people based upon their age, athletic level, fitness level, etc. However, if you are going to be competing at a high level, you should probably have phenomenal balance. Standing on one leg with eyes open should be around 60 seconds and eyes closed should be at least 20 seconds without a loss of balance.
Poor Muscular Reaction Time: This essentially ties into the balance idea. It’s noted that when you have poor balance, you may also have poor reaction time. The higher the latency, or time it takes for your muscles to respond to a movement, the more likely you may be to suffer an injury.
Poor Cardiorespiratory Fitness: Obviously, fatigue will play a role on your body and its ability to withstand an awkward movement or landing. Being in good aerobic shape going into your event can help you continue to perform at a higher level longer and potentially avoiding injury.
Soleus Stretch: The Soleus is a muscle that is in the calf that does not cross the knee joint. Since it does not cross the joint, we can emphasize its stretch with the knee bent. In a half kneeling position, position the foot forward that you’d like to stretch. Drive the knee forward not allowing the heel to come off the ground. Push down through the knee for 3 seconds and perform 10 times.
Gastroc Stretch: The Gastrocnemius, or Gastroc muscle does cross the knee joint! Therefore, we should keep the knee straight in order to stretch it. You’ll start on your hands and knees and put the leg you’d like to stretch directly behind you. You will rock backwards, using your body weight, to help drive the heel to the ground. Hold for a count of 3 seconds and perform 10 times.
Single Leg Dynamic Runners: This challenging balance exercise is dynamic, specific to athletes and does wonders for warming up the body to improve the balance and firing patterns of the muscles. Stand on one leg and put the weight on the back, outside part of the heel. Then, you will simply pretend like you are running in slow motion for 1 minute. Stay as steady and controlled as possible. Perform 3x on both sides for 1 minute.
While the jury is still out on exactly which preceding factors dictate ankle sprains, it has been shown that limited range of motion and balance certainly play a role in the prevention of ankle sprains. The calf muscle, composed of both the Gastrocnemius and the Soleus, tends to get tight and limit foot and ankle movement. Two stretches are shown to address both, individually. Lastly, improvements in dynamic balance, coordination, motor control and muscle firing patterns can help mitigate the chances of any ankle sprains, not to mention properly warming up the muscles before your activity. The Single Leg Dynamic Runners accomplish all of these and can be progressed to being challenged by eyes closed, performed with no shoes on, or a combination of both.
About the Author
Dr. Chad Kuntz, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, CSCS, CISSN, TPI-1 is the founder of Pr1me Movement, located in Charlotte, North Carolina who believes in reaching out into the communities to help decrease or stop the pain before it starts! Feel free to reach out to Chad by using the below contact ideas.
Phone Number: 704-835-0831
Address: 601 N Polk Street, Pineville, NC 28134
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