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Stop Ankle Breakers

by Wayne Gilmour, DPT

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Ankle sprains make up 25% of all injuries in basketball players. In fact, ankle sprains are the number one injury causing missed playing time across all sports. Not only are ankle sprains incredibly common, but once you have one sprain, research shows you are at increased risk for more sprains in the future.


What actually happens when you sprain your ankle?


An ankle sprain is the stretching or tearing of 1 or more of the 3 ligaments that support the outside of the ankle. The amount of damage that's done determines how long it takes to recover from an ankle sprain. Unless completely torn, these ligaments should heal with healthy scar tissue, but will never return to their previous strength. This residual instability is why the risk for recurring ankle sprains increases.


The good news is that the body has built-in redundancies. An ankle sprain reduces the passive stability (from ligaments), but we still have the ability to control movement at the ankle with dynamic stability (from muscles). We're going to address how to improve ankle dynamic stability to get you back on the court. For what to do immediately following an ankle sprain, check out this post.


Our focus with the following exercises is to improve the muscle strength and activation pattern to compensate for the weakness of the ligaments that have been damaged. These muscles aren’t just limited to the ankle; we need muscles from our feet all the way up to the hip and core working in conjunction to provide ankle stability and reduce the risk of injury.


Single Leg 4 Way Heel Raise (2 sets x 10 reps each direction)

Stand on 1 foot on a slant. Raise heel as high as possible and slowly lower down. Perform 10 times. Turn 90 degrees on the slant and perform again. Repeat all 4 directions shown in the following videos.



Double Low Lateral Quick Hops (3 sets x 30 seconds)

Stand in between 2 steps that are 4-6 inches apart. On 1 leg, jump from one step to the ground in between and then to the other step quickly up and down back to the starting step. Perform consecutively in both directions.



Single Leg Med Ball Rainbow Slam (30 sec)

Stand on 1 foot. Raise a medicine ball overhead in both hands and slam down on the right side. Catch the ball and slam down on the left side. Repeat.



Single Leg Stand w/ Kettlebell Pass (3 sets x 30 sec)

Stand on 1 foot with a kettlebell or weight in one hand. Pass (don’t throw) kettlebell from 1 hand to the other maintaining arch and balance.



If you have any questions regarding injury prevention for the ankle or rehab in basketball, please reach out for an appointment with a physical therapist!


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