Ankle sprains are among the most common (and most dreaded) injuries for basketball players. Constantly changing directions and landing from jumps can push your ankles to their limits. To make matters worse, you’re moving in traffic, which increases your chance of landing awkwardly, causing a sprain.
You can take steps to prevent (and recover from) ankle sprains with just a few adjustments. The exercises below will strengthen the muscles that support your ankle and foot. Although you can’t completely prevent ankle injuries, having strong ankles can reduce the frequency or severity of ankle injuries.
These exercises apply to many sports, but in basketball you will see more of a direct positive result, and you may be able to limit the ankle taping that can lead to injuries in other areas. Taping can severely limit ankle movement, which reduces your power output while jumping and cutting on the court. Check out the video player above for additional ankle strengthening exercises from NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade.
These three exercises will help prevent ankle injuries and get you through your season healthy:
Single-Leg Calf Raise
The Single-Leg Calf Raise eccentrically works the muscles around the ankle so they can better absorb force when you land or change directions.
How to: Perform a Calf Raise on one leg. Once you have reached the top, instead of dropping down and beginning the next rep, focus on taking 5 seconds for your heel to touch the ground again. So 1 second up, 5 seconds down for each repetition.
Sets/Reps: 3×12-15 each leg
Single-Leg Ladder Drills
Performing speed ladder drills on one leg trains your ankles to absorb your body weight in every direction.
How to: This is where you can become creative. Using a speed ladder, warm up using both feet. Once you are warm, do each sequence with only one foot. Try doing a few hops—then stop, go sideways, backwards, and side to side. The possibilities are endless, but make sure you only use one leg at a time and end up with equal exercises for both legs.
Sets/Reps: 15x ladder (choose different patterns)
This will strengthen the muscles on the front of your shins, which help stabilize your ankles.
How to: Begin with a 10-pound plate. While standing, place the corner of a plate over your toes, then dorsiflex your foot to raise the plate with your toes. Increase the weight of the plate as tolerated, but focus on going one second up, then slowly lowering it back down for five seconds.
RELATED: Simple Ways to Treat or Prevent an Ankle Sprain