Ankle injuries are the most common complaint in A&E departments across the country. They cost the NHS and private health sector millions each year to treat, and cost the injured sportsperson time off from their sport and weeks of frustration. This injury affects both the elite sportsperson and non-sporting individual and can affect your enjoyment of day-to-day activities significantly.
Causes of ankle injuries vary widely, but common reasons include falling or tripping, turning during sports play and loss of balance. This can result in a multitude of injuries to the ankle including the most common ankle injury where the ligaments around the outer ankle are sprained.
In this blog post, Bristol Manager and Physio Leanne lists her top tips for preventing ankle injuries:
1. Keep fit!
Cardiovascular fitness is essential to avoiding fatigue. Fatigue, during whichever sporting or non-sporting level you play at, can cause sluggishness of movements and increase the risk of injury.
2. Gradually Build Up
Injuries commonly occur when there has been a change to the intensity of training or day-to-day activity. A good example is developing pain in the Achilles tendon at the back of the ankle when a new sport, such a jogging, is started too quickly without an appropriate build up. Make sure you start with a small amount of jogging, and perhaps alternate jogging with walking in 1 minute intervals, and then gradually increasing the distance or intensity.
3. Improve Your Balance
It is easy to assess your balance by trying to stand on one leg, or walking in a line on your toes. Tasks such as climbing the stairs quickly, changing direction quickly on the football pitch or crossing the road at speed, all involve accurate and appropriate muscle activity and joint position so that we don’t injure ourselves. Balance can be improved just as strength can. Physiotherapists can prescribe balance exercises appropriate to the activities you do.
4. Strengthen the Right Muscles with the Right Movements
It is all well and good to strengthen the basic calf muscles by raising up and down on your toes, but these are not the only muscles involved in control around the ankle. You need to consider strengthening the peroneals (on the lateral aspect of your legs) and also tibialis posterior (central leg muscles). It is also really important to strengthen the muscles in the range you require them to work for your activity. For example working on the peroneals will allow you to walk on uneven ground more easily, such as fields or cobbles.
5. Wear Protective Bracing
If you have had previous ankle injuries, it is sometimes appropriate to wear a protective brace to prevent further injury when performing higher-level activities. We recommend wearing these only if you have been advised by your physiotherapist, and that you only wear it when performing your chosen activity, as overuse can lead to further weakness, loss of control and can perpetuate the cycle of risk and injury.
Do you have an ankle injury or do you have a concern about your ankle? Get in touch today!
Post by Leanne Plenge, Physiotherapist and Bristol Manager.