Many are familiar with that dreaded CRUNCH sensation as your ankle slips out from underneath you.
While a lucky few sustain only a couple ankle sprains during their athletic careers, some need all of their fingers and toes to keep track. According to Hubbard et al., nearly 70 percent of ankle sprains are recurrent.
What causes these unfortunate folks to sprain their ankles time and time again?
"I just have weak ankles" is the common explanation. But is it truly the case?
Do you remember the song, "The knee bone is connected to the thigh bone; the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone..."? Well, they were onto something.
Instead of blaming your flimsy ankles as the sole reason for wobbling around like a baby giraffe on ice skates, you might want to shift your attention to your buns.
Friel et al. took a look at subjects with chronic ankle sprains and found significant strength changes between the hip abductors on the non-involved and involved sides.
Why would this play a role in ankle sprains?
These proximal hip muscles play a key role in lower extremity stability during single-limb activities (walking, hopping, balance, etc). An alteration in this control may require an increased demand on the ankle joint.
When someone loses their balance, they utilize either an "ankle strategy" or a "hip strategy" to find their footing.
The larger the perturbation, the more likely a hip strategy will be utilized. But combine a hip strategy with a weak bum, and you may have a recipe for a rolled ankle.
Now there is a "chicken or the egg" scenario going on here, as well.
Lentell et al. saw that injuries to the lower extremity that compromised ligamentous integrity reduced lumbopelvic stability. This was secondary to a reduction in one's ability to detect small ankle/foot motions that would deviate one's center of mass.
That being said, multiple ankle sprains would likely augment this phenomenon and continue to impede pelvic stability. Long story short, we should be thinking of it more like a chicken omelet.
Powers et al. found that isometric hip abduction strength was a significant indicator of future ankle sprain, with those subjects with weaker hips having double the likelihood of sustaining a sprain.
What does this mean? Incorporating lateral hip strengthening into a regular workout routine may be a simple way to improve proximal hip stability, and thus reduce the risk of ankle sprains.
What kind of exercises fit the bill? The following videos are a few simple ways to get started on glute strengthening today:
Combining these hip exercises with a few balance and ankle-strengthening exercises can go a long way in reducing your risk of suffering yet another ankle sprain this season.
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