Ankle injuries are a frequent occurrence in the UK accounting for 5% of emergency department visits annually and 5600 injuries per day. Unfortunately, once you’ve injured your ankle once, you are more likely to injure your ankle again – unless proper rehab/prehab is done. Often, people who have injured their ankle will feel their ankle “gives way” too easy leading to pain, weakness, reduced range of motion (ROM) and consequently reduced total physical activity. This blog will talk over some of the ways you can reduce your chances of injuring your ankle and manage a previously injured ankle.
When doing your traditional “lower body workout” people will often focus on the big muscles such as the quads, hamstrings and glutes, and neglect any muscle/joint below their knee. This, combined with prolonged periods of time our feet are crammed into shoes, is putting huge stress on the ankle complex. The feet and ankle are the first point of contact whenever we do any kind or running, jumping, walking etc. So, there should be at least some exercises to strengthen the muscles within and around the ankle joint.
A great way to start at this is by performing ankle inversions (see picture) and ankle eversions (see picture) barefoot. When doing these movements, try to focus on engaging the muscles of the foot. A great way to imagine this is by thinking about gripping the floor with your toes (as you would with your hands). To make this harder you can add a resistance band wrapped around the ankle. Keep in mind this is a very small movement, focus on the quality.
Another great set of exercises are toe raises (see picture) and heel raises (see picture) barefoot. Again, focus on the quality of the movement. Really fight to pull/push the toes/heels of the ground getting them as high as possible. To make this harder do it single legged.
For the people that have already injured their ankle, the exercises above will also help – but keep in mind it may be difficult on an already injured ankle. If you have injured your ankle, its likely you have lost some “joint position sense.” Essentially, meaning an injured person finds it more difficult to control their ankle leading to “fear of movement” and the “sensations of giving way” that we talked about earlier. These people need to retrain their ankle so that when they land and plant their foot, their ankle doesn’t move into a compromising position where it may “give way.”
To do this, simple landing and balance drills can be your friend. FYI only perform these drills if you have built strength in your ankle first and have not injured it recently. Start easy by hopping up onto a box. From there, gently fall (not jump) off the box landing with soft knees, using your ankle to stabilise the landing. You can do this initially onto two feet, then progress to a single legged landing (see picture). Finally, utilising Bosu balls (most difficult), sponge platforms or balance boards, hold a single legged balance position (see picture). Again, perform this barefoot so you can grip using your feet, using your ankle to stabilise the movement. Make this harder by having someone throw a ball at you to catch while balancing.
Book in with one of the team for more advice on ankle injuries or further rehab specific to you.