How to Prevent High Ankle Sprains

April 12, 2013 | Joe Giandonato

Must See Sports Injuries Videos

Few injuries are more troublesome for athletes than ankle injuries, particularly high ankle sprains. They are painful and they limit your ability to accelerate, cut, pivot, change direction and even bear weight. (Learn high ankle sprain symptoms.)

Research indicates that high ankle sprains (i.e., tibiofibular syndesmosis) account for 17% of all ankle injuries. The injury may seem similar to a low ankle sprain, but it is more severe and recovery time is typically much longer.

Causes of High Ankle Sprains 

High ankle sprains commonly occur when an athlete plants her foot pointing slightly out while her body pivots in the opposite direction. This causes the ends of the tibia and fibula to move away from each other, stretching the ligaments that connect them and potentially causing a sprain.

Preventing High Ankle Sprains 

Like other injuries, high ankle sprains cannot be completely eliminated, especially those that result from contact. However, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk or limit the severity of a sprain. (Watch Dwyane Wade strengthen his ankles.)

Strengthen the Hip Muscles

The hip muscles determine what areas of the feet make contact with the ground. The human body is an interconnected chain of movement. If one link is weak, another area has to compensate. In this case, if the hips are weak, you may have flat feet due to ankle alignment issues. Fix it with:

Barbell Hip Thrusts with Banded Abduction

Muscles Targeted: gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, gastrocnemius

Equipment Required: Flat bench, barbell with plates, stretch or therapy band


  • Position a flat bench against a stack of plates or a small plyo box to ensure that it's secured in place.
  • Sit in front of the bench with your shoulders and upper back resting against the bench and your feet flat on the ground.
  • Wrap a resistance band around your legs, about an inch above your knees.
  • Position the barbell one to two inches below your waistline and hold it with a slightly-wider-than-shoulder-width grip.
  • Drive through your heels and extend yours hips to raise the bar, and simultaneously drive your knees outward against the band.
  • Keep your core tight throughout the movement.
  • Slowly lower the bar to the starting position.
  • Pause briefly on the ground before repeating.

Sets/Reps: 3x6-10 (start with 10- or 25-pound plates)

Strengthen the Ankles Locally

The ankle and foot are crossed by a web of muscles that dictate and prevent movement. As such, the musculature can be strengthened locally through traction exercises. Fix it with:

Ankle Alphabets

Muscles Targeted: Various muscles of the lower leg, including the tibialis, calf and peroneal muscles

Equipment Required: Flat bench and stretch or therapy band


  • Wrap the band around your foot below the ball of the foot. Wrap it around multiple times to adjust the tension if necessary.
  • Sit on the bench with your target ankle hanging off in front.
  • Pull the band toward your body to add tension.
  • Write the alphabet with your foot as if you were holding a pen between your big toe and second toe.

Sets/Reps: Two alphabets each leg

Refine Your Movements

Many athletes injure their ankles when they plant their foot and ankle while pivoting, shifting or rotating their body. Instead, they should initiate rotational movements at the shoulders, while opening up their hips to their destination. For example, a basketball player posting up with his back to the basket should turn his shoulders and open up his hips toward the rim to make a move inside.


Gerber JP, Williams GN, Scoville CR, et al. "Persistent disability associated with ankle sprains: a prospective examination of an athletic population." Foot Ankle Int. 1998:19(10):653-660.

Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
Must See
Skylar Diggins Attacks the Off-Season On and Off the Court
Views: 6,471,296
Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills
Views: 9,798,686
Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,308,506

Featured Videos

A Day in the Life of NBA D-League Star Seth Curry Views: 66,647
Kevin Love's Cone Hop Basketball Shooting Drill Views: 5,931
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 2: Laying the Groundwork Views: 124,090
Load More


STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,308,506
What Ryan Hall Eats for Breakfast
Views: 795,206
STACK Fitness Weekly: How To Do a Muscle-Up
Views: 778,488
Greg Nixon's Hill Training Program
Views: 705,633
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,559,831

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

Among the most common injuries that Men's and Women's basketball players suffer is the dreaded ankle sprain. Focusing on ankle injury prevention and...

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

How to Prevent Injuries With 3 Yoga Poses

Megan Rapinoe

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

Tips for Working Out With a Hand or Arm Injury

3 Ways to Prevent the Most Common Hockey Injury

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

What You Need to Know About Tiger Woods' Back Injury

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

5 Exercises to Prevent ACL Tears

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

Bulletproof Your Body with 5 Easy Injury Prevention Exercises

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

Why Strengthening This Muscle May Fix Knee Pain

The 8 Most Dangerous Exercises for Your Shoulders

How to Train With Running Blisters

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury