Ankle sprains are common injuries for athletes of all kinds but particularly jumping athletes and even more so for basketball players (try coming down on someone else’s foot and NOT spraining your ankle!).
All ankle sprains are not alike—some are mild and you’re pain free in a few days to a week and others seem to take forever to heal. Most common are “inversion” sprains (when your foot rolls outward), but there are also “eversion” sprains (foot rolls inwards) and “high” ankle sprains (where the ligaments connecting the bones that make up your lower leg get sprained) which are less common but painful and limiting nonetheless (just ask Tom Brady after Ndamukong Suh fell on his ankle!). Because most are of the less-severe variety, you are unlikely to get any sympathy if you say you sprained your ankle.
While in the early stages of PT we seek to decrease the pain and swelling and increase your range of motion, the latter stages focus on strength, power and regaining your coordination for balance and sense of position in space (so you don’t sprain it again—show of hands, how many people have ONLY sprained their ankle once? Thought so.).
In the clinic, we use equipment such as an asymmetrical board (BAPS board), tilt board, “dynadisc,” trampoline and the BOSU device to challenge your ankle in multiple ways. But, we almost always start out with activities that challenge your body standing still on the floor and then challenge your body more and more as each task becomes easy. Progressing through these same exercises for the healthy ankle may improve your balance, sense of joint position, and strength to better avoid injury. See the insert for ankle control exercise progressions.
By Tom Fontana, MSPT