Ankle injuries are prevalent in all sports, with ankle ligament sprains and in particular lateral ligament sprains (ligaments on the outside of the foot) being the most common.
These particular sprains account for around 80% of all ankle injuries.
Other injuries include fractures and sprains of various tendons around the ankle. Various factors have an effect on how likely a person is to injure their ankle, such as strength, proprioception (balance), environment, equipment, ankle alignment.
Common Causes of Ankle Injuries
The most common causes of ankle injuries is a person’s lack of proprioception or balance around their ankle joint and a weakness of the soft tissue around the joint.
This affects the vulnerability of their ankle joint when it is put into a tricky environment such as an uneven surface, long distance running (fatigue) or just a simple task such as changing direction or jumping.
Proprioception is the body’s ability to sense even the slightest of movements within a joint and therefore allows us to know when to contract or relax a muscle to get the desired movement.
Strength is also a big factor in ankle injuries and if there is any weaknesses in the muscles around the ankle this will always increase the risk of injury.
Other factors such as environment and equipment aren’t as controllable as strength and proprioception but it is always important to make sure that our equipment (shoes and clothing) is suitable to the task we are undertaking.
How to Prevent Ankle Injuries
When people think of ways to prevent injuries or recover from injuries already obtained, strength is always at the top of everyone’s list of things to improve. This is all well and good because as I have already mentioned strength needs to be as good as it can be to reduce your injury risk. However, muscle imbalance is just as important. If the muscles on the inside of your foot are stronger than the muscles on the outside of your foot, then this will increase the likelihood that your foot is going to fall away from the mid-line of your body and therefore cause that common ankle sprain and vice versa.
The preventative measures that you will find to be most effective are balance and proprioception. This can be improved by putting your ankle in certain scenarios that it would only be in when your ankle is most at risk such as on an uneven surface (wobble board), jumping (hopping exercises) and changing direction (agility tasks).
By incorporating all these balancing exercises into your gym program it will strengthen your ankle and drastically reduce your injury risk in the future.