Progression of Ankle Sprain Training
Updated: Mar 29
What a pain an ankle sprain can be! You first work through the swelling and regaining range of motion, then on strength and a normal walking pattern. Once you have achieved that, let’s look at what to do next:
Now that you have regained your full range of motion, it is important to work on retraining your foot and ankle with functional movements.
Balance is so important in regaining your full function and returning to all exercise activities. When working on balance exercises (think standing on one foot) your ankle and foot muscles must engage to keep you upright and weight must be distributed throughout the foot. This is also very helpful if you are walking on uneven ground, running on a trail or performing yoga poses. Check out some balance exercises on our instagram as well!
Strength training in single leg positions on various surfaces will speed up your return to running, basketball, tennis etc. Allowing the leg of the injured ankle to work through these strength exercises will not only help the lower leg muscles, but the muscles throughout the leg that must work together to perform a task or activity.
Jumping and more importantly, landing is another key component to a full recovery and even prevention of ankle sprains. Start small. Small jumps and landing with both feet and then progress to single leg small jumps and landing. Once you are comfortable with small jumps, make the distance longer or the surface uneven (think landing on a pillow as an example). These landing movements translate well to what your foot and ankle have to do with running, cutting and turning which are all movements that you perform with sports and exercise activities. Now, progress to different heights. Land on one foot from a small step or curb and progress the height to increase the challenge!
Progression back to your activities will depend on how your ankle feels with the above activities. If you are able to balance, jump, land and have recovered your strength in the foot and ankle - it is time to try your sport! Take it slow the first few times. If you have a tennis match, maybe make it a doubles match the first time back or only play a few games. Back to basketball? Try just shooting around to start. This will allow you to test out those cutting movements prior to returning to your game.
Creativity with sport specific exercises will also help with your confidence in your ability. Not only is it important to train in functional patterns,it is also important to take components of your sport for your training. Have to sprint? Work on sprinting when not on the court. Have to cut, jump and land? These are a crucial part of recovery and prevention!
Have a great PT in your corner who can help you progress back to all sports and prevent these frustrating ankle sprains from happening again!