How to avoid sports-related ankle injuries

It’s the height of basketball season; keep ankle sprains and rolls out of the madness

Ankle sprains and rolls are some of the most common injuries seen in athletic competition, especially basketball. Sprains occur when ligaments are stretched or torn from a forceful rolling of the ankle either inward or outward. During basketball, this usually happens when a player takes a bad step and loses their footing, lands on an opponent’s foot or comes down awkwardly after a jump.

Recurring ankle sprains are common when an initial ankle injury isn’t treated properly or given enough time to heal. It is essential to take your physician’s, athletic trainer’s or physical therapist’s advice when returning from an ankle injury.

Ankle injury prevention 101

  • Balance exercises: Good balance is essential to decreasing the chance of an ankle injury
    • Work on single leg balance with each leg.
    • Progressions can include single leg balance with eyes open, single leg balance with eyes closed, single leg balance with eyes open during a basketball toss between partners.
  • Ankle-strengthening exercises
    • Four-way ankle exercise using an exercise band: Keep knee straight and calf stable; movement occurs in ankle joint only. (See picture below.)
    • Calf raises: Progress from standing double-leg calf raise to single-leg calf raise.
    • Squats and lunges: These exercises help strengthen the entire ankle joint while also working on the larger muscle groups of the leg.
  • Landing and cutting techniques
    • Work on controlled double-leg and single-leg landing techniques. Always land on slightly bent knees, with knee caps pointing forward, to keep the ankle joint stable.
    • Practice defensive slides that include quick cutting in different directions. These can help strengthen the joint and decrease the chance of rolling your ankle.

Take time off to recharge

As with any other activity or sport, your body needs a break in order to recharge and avoid muscle fatigue, which can lead to injury. No sport should be played year-round or every day of the week.

  • In season: Take at least one day off a week from basketball.
  • Off season: Take at least two months off a year from basketball. You can still stay active by playing other sports or using a different workout routine.


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