Ankle sprains are one of the most commons injuries seen in athletics. Although preventative exercises can reduce the risk of an ankle sprain, some sprains are inevitable. Below is a list of actions athletes can take after an initial ankle sprain to get back to the competition more quickly.

Seek Medical Attention

After spraining your ankle it is imperative to seek medical attention. Injuries other than mild to moderate sprains that can occur when rolling your ankle include severe ligament tears, bone fractures, high (syndesmotic) ankle sprains, and more. Failure to properly identify all possible damage to your ankle may lengthen healing time – meaning more time away from your sport. Always make sure to check in with a certified athletic trainer or doctor after you sustain an ankle injury.

Move Early

Gentle range of motion exercises right after injury help to improve functional outcomes and may decrease your return-to-play time. Start by moving your ankle up and down, side to side, and in large, slow circles. I often tell my athletes to draw the ABC’s with their big toe very slowly, making the letters as big as possible. Completing these exercises with your foot elevated will help to decrease swelling as well. If bearing weight on the newly injured ankle is tolerable, you can try shifting your weight from one foot to the other while standing.

Protect and Support

When it comes to recovering from an acute ankle injury, physicians will sometimes prescribe a walking boot that restricts all ankle movement. Once a patient is ready to transition from a walking boot and resume movement, but isn’t ready to go straight to a preventative ankle brace, we recommend they wear the Ultra CTS brace.

This one of a kind, hinged ankle brace supports and protects a newly sprained ankle while encouraging athletes to move through their normal range of motion. The Ultra CTS includes a semi-rigid foot plate to decrease weight bearing pain and gives an athlete more stability on a questionable ankle, decreasing fear of movement, guarding, and painful gait patterns. As the injury heals, the Ultra CTS upper cuff can be detached to transform the brace into a low-profile activity brace.

Control Pain

If your pain prevents you from moving the joint early, use ice. Intermittent use of an ice bag or ice water bucket is a drug-free and cheap way of reducing pain and is something you can utilize before seeing a physician. Make sure to check the skin occasionally for signs of ice burn or allergy.

A compression bandage and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will also help reduce pain by decreasing the amount of swelling in the joint. The Ultra CTS and its Performathane® Custom-Fit technology does a great job of providing gentle compression and forming to your ankle but wearing a compressive bandage underneath for the first few days is even more helpful in reducing swelling.

Strengthen

If you’re able, find an athletic trainer or physical therapist that will give you therapeutic exercises and guidance while you perform them. Having a more structured rehab regimen will improve your recovery time. At the very least, get exercises from your physician and perform them on your own as prescribed. After spraining a ligament in the ankle, the joint needs to rely on the surrounding muscles more, making therapy exercises a must.

Help Prevent Ankle Sprains

Sports are unpredictable. Even with strong muscles, perfect biomechanics, and great conditioning, ankle sprains are still possible and in some situations highly likely to occur. If you have not yet sprained your ankle there are ways to reduce your risk of doing so:

  • Wear a preventative ankle brace that provides full range of motion. Unlike lace-up ankle braces, hinged ankle braces do not restrict natural range of motion and help prevent extreme ranges that lead to injury. You CAN reduce risk of ankle injury and not adversely affect performance!
  • Do preventative ankle exercises regularly. Reach out to a medical professional to find the best exercises for prevention. They should include not only strengthening exercises, but also plyometric and proprioceptive exercises.
  • Perform sport specific conditioning before and during the season. Doing sport-specific training will ensure your body is ready for competition and able to react to the stresses you will be placing on your ankle.

Ultra Zoom

Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

Ultra High-5

Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries

A few weeks ago I was watching a press conference with Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson who was commenting on how the ankle injury he sustained in the previous game was progressing.  When explaining his ankle situation the day after the injury he said the first thing he did was to take off the walking boot, because “You can’t play in a boot.” 

As athletic trainers we often use a walking boot to calm down a recently injured ankle, but we all know the sooner you transition out of a walking boot the better.  But the real question is, transition out of a walking boot to what?

What comes after wearing a walking boot is where athletic trainers earn their money.  The transition from the safety and security of a walking boot to the next phase of returning the athlete to competition is critical.  The ankle will need some sort of external ankle brace support because tape alone is not enough.  But what kind of ankle brace would provide a good transition from a walking boot? 

If the athlete has weight bearing pain, then you will need an ankle brace that unloads or offloads the ankle.  Meaning the brace will absorb most of the impact, not the sore ankle, thus reducing weight bearing pain.  Tape and lace-up supports have a soft bottom and cannot unload the ankle.  The ankle brace design that is the most efficient at unloading the ankle is a semi-rigid hinged-cuff ankle brace.  ‘Hinged-cuff’ means it’s a hinged ankle brace but with a cuff that encircles the posterior of the lower leg.  What makes this design the most effective is because you encircle the ankle/foot and lower leg in both the vertical and horizontal plane which provides a stable platform to absorb impact and control movement. 

Now that you solved the weight bearing pain issue, the next focus is providing sufficient ankle stability to secure the injured ankle and prevent further injury.  Yes, you can tape the ankle for stability, but tape loosens the longer you wear it.  We have ruled out lace-ups because they can’t unload the ankle.  Once again, a semi-rigid hinged-cuff ankle brace is the best option because it can provide more initial and long-lasting ankle support. Because the brace is hinged, it moves with normal ankle range of motion which keeps the straps securely in place maintaining long lasting ankle stabilization.  Every knee brace is designed upon that same principle.  Also, the cuff portion of the hinged-cuff design helps to restrict excessive ankle rotation which causes syndesmotic ankle injuries

To sum things up, when you come out of a boot it’s important to unload the ankle to reduce weight bearing pain and stabilize the lower leg and ankle to prevent further injury.  The hinged-cuff ankle brace design is the most effective when transitioning from a walking boot back to competition, because you can’t play in a walking boot.

Ultra Zoom

Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

Ultra High-5

Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries

Treating syndesmotic ankle injuries with an ankle brace really took a leap forward with the invention of hinged-cuff technology. We all know syndesmotic or “high” ankle injuries occur when the ankle and lower leg rotate in opposite directions. The ideal ankle brace for this condition would be one that restricts ankle and lower leg rotation. That is what the “cuff” accomplishes in hinged-cuff  ankle brace design.

Ultra Ankle® introduced the first semi-rigid hinged-cuff ankle brace design in 2000. Prior to that, semi-rigid ankle braces were designed with two separate side uprights that can move independently which sacrifices rotational stability. By connecting both ankle brace side uprights together with a semi-rigid cuff, you create restriction/resistance in the rotational/horizontal plane. Furthermore, now you have designed an ankle brace that has a solid U-shape in both the vertical and horizontal plane, creating resistance to ankle inversion “turning” and ankle rotation “twisting.”

Since we introduced hinged-cuff technology in 2000 other companies have also introduced their version of the same design. Today, hinged-cuff ankle brace design is the industry standard for designing semi-rigid ankle braces. However all hinged-cuff ankle braces are not the same, especially when treating syndesmotic ankle injuries.

What typically accompanies rotational ankle pain with the high ankle injury is also weight bearing pain. And if you have weight bearing pain, your chances of playing are slim. That is why you need to select an ankle brace design that unloads the ankle in order to reduce weight bearing pain. Lace-ups, tape, as well as other semi-rigid ankle braces that have a heel opening or flexible heel cannot unload the ankle. The ankle brace must have a solid U-shape in the vertical plain in order for the brace to absorb the impact or energy, not the sore ankle.

At Ultra Ankle® we have developed two hinged-cuff technology ankle braces which restrict excessive ankle inversion and rotation, as well as unload the ankle.  The Ultra High-5® is a semi-rigid ankle brace designed for chronic ankle instability and reoccurring joint pain. The Ultra CTS® is designed to treat acute syndesmotic ankle injuries by providing significant lower leg compression and stabilization to reduce ligament stress as well as unload the ankle to reduce weight bearing pain.

Ultra Zoom

Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

Ultra High-5

Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries