Ask the Experts: How Can I Prevent a Repeat Ankle Sprain?

Learn how to prevent repeat ankle sprains with a combination of bracing and ankle strengthening exercises.

LaMarcus Aldridge Sprained Ankle

Q: I sprained my ankle and my doctor says I'm now at a higher risk to hurt it again. How can I prevent a repeat injury?

A: Ahh…the dreaded ankle sprain. It's the most common injury in sports, with 73 percent of athletes suffering multiple sprains during their athletic careers. [1]

Unfortunately, your doctor is right: Spraining your ankle will make you more susceptible to a repeat injury. Although the ligaments will heal over time, they won't offer the same level of support as they did before the injury. Your ankle won't be as stable, and it won't take as much force to sprain it again. Fortunately, you can employ two strategies to help keep your ankles strong and healthy.

Bracing

Braces and tape provide external support for your ankles, increasing the joint's stability and limiting the stress placed on ligaments and other stabilizing structures as you move. A brace can't stop you from rolling your ankle, but the extra stability will increase the threshold for sustaining an injury, and it may reduce the severity of an injury if one occurs.

The only problem with bracing? Your body learns to rely on the extra support, so the muscles and supporting structures that naturally protect your ankle weaken over time. That makes ankle more susceptible to injury if you stop wearing the brace—an ironic consequence of an item designed to protect you.

Strength Training 

Strengthening your ankle muscles offers a natural and permanent form of bracing. Strong ankle stabilizer muscles help keep the ankle aligned and absorb the forces placed on the joint when you change direction and or land on unpredictable terrain. Your ligaments will be subjected to less stress, reducing the risk of a sprain.

Two exercises that can help prevent injury are the Eccentric Calf Raise and the PPT Band Circuit. Also, any agility or balance exercise will help increase ankle stabilizer muscle strength and coordination. The more you use your ankle muscles, the stronger (and more injury-resistant) they will become.

Try this 3-Part Strategy for Preventing Ankle Sprains.

Reference

[1] Yeung, M. S.; Chan, K.-M.; Yuan, W. Y., "An epidemiological survey on ankle sprain." British Journal of Sports Medicine 1994, 28 (2), 112-116.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: EXERCISE | SPORTS | INJURY | STRESS | ANKLE SPRAIN