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

We hear all about it on TV and sports radio – the dreaded high ankle injury and how long we can expect the athlete will be on the sidelines compared to a regular ankle injury. But what is a high ankle injury and how does it happen? Why are high ankle injuries so much more difficult to treat?

Where a classic ankle injury is caused when the ankle turns inward, or rolls inward, a high ankle injury can occur when the ankle and lower leg twists excessively outward. Alternatively, a high ankle injury can occur if there is an excessive force on the ankle when the toes are pointing up. Unlike a classic ankle injury, a high ankle sprain is not to the ligaments surrounding and supporting the ankle, but to the tissue and ligaments that hold the lower leg bones, the tibia and fibula, together (hence the “high”).

Athletes with a high ankle injury will most likely complain of pain in the upper ankle and shin region. If an athlete believes they have a high ankle injury, they should cease activity immediately and get a quick evaluation by an athletic trainer or other medical professional. Since athletes with a high ankle injury are typically out twice as long as someone who suffers a classic or low ankle injury, it’s important to not make the injury worse by continuing activities.

Once evaluated, the sports medicine professional will most likely prescribe the common RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) for recovery as well as recommend an ankle brace designed specifically to treat a high ankle injury versus a low ankle injury. 

Since the high ankle injury is typically caused by ankle rotation, it’s important to wear an ankle brace that is going to restrict excessive rotation during recovery. The only braces to effectively restrict excessive ankle rotation utilize a “hinged-cuff” design where the cuff is the section above the ankle that connects the inside of the brace to the outside of the brace with a rigid connection. This connection combined with a semi-rigid stirrup that goes under the foot creates the stability necessary in both the vertical and horizontal plane to restrict excessive ankle rotation. 

Here at Ultra Ankle® we designed two advanced ankle braces with hinged-cuff technology that are prescribed by sports medicine professionals specifically for high ankle injuries. The Ultra High-5 (pictured) is a great sports ankle brace designed to treat both high and low ankle injuries, while the Ultra CTS ankle brace is designed to treat both high and low acute ankle injuries. Both braces will also unload the ankle which reduces weight bearing pain allowing athletes to return to competition quicker and safer.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a high ankle injury, have reoccurring ankle injuries, or an acute injury and are interested more in hearing about how our ankle braces can help you get back in the game – send our certified athletic trainer a message. We’d be happy to talk through your injuries and see if our technology would be right for you.

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

As a Certified Athletic Trainer the most prevalent injury I see among athletes are ankle injuries which isn’t surprising seeing as there are an estimated 25,000 ankle injuries in the U.S every day.  While athletes spend significant time on training to improve strength and agility, they really never think about training their ankle to do the same. By improving ankle proprioception (balance) and muscle strength you may be able to prevent an ankle injury, or at lease lessen the severity should an injury occur.

Ankle Strengthening

The most effective ankle strengthening exercises can be done with an inexpensive piece of resistance band (such as Thera-Band) you can purchase from any pharmacy. Resistance bands are like big rubber bands and come in various stretch characteristics such as ‘beginner’ or ‘intermediate.’ Youth athletes should be fine starting with a beginner band, while more advanced and older athletes can begin by using the ‘intermediate’ band.

Below is an example of an ankle strengthening exercise that you can perform at home. For the following you can perform 3 sets of 20 repetitions for each motion.

  • While sitting on the floor, place one end of the band around the top of the foot and hold the other end
  • Rotate or curl your foot inward for 20 repetitions
  • Rotate or curl your foot outward for 20 repetitions
  • Point your toes downward, or away from you for 20 repetitions
  • Connect one end of the band around a chair leg and the other end around the top of your foot and pull your toes upward or toward you for 20 repetitions

Balance Exercises

Balance, also know as proprioception to us athletic trainers, exercises are simple but the key is to make sure you complete them every day. Start out with the balance moves below and then as you improve, reach out to your sports medicine professional or athletic trainer for additional exercises.

  • On a flat floor stand on one leg for 30 secondsProgress to standing on one leg and have someone throw you a ball
  • Have them throw it high, low, left and right
  • Progress beyond 30 seconds as you achieve better balance, holding as long as you can up to 90 seconds on each leg
  • Switch legs and repeat
  • With one leg out in front perform a mini-squat for 10 reps. (A mini-squat would be defined as bending the knee 45º as opposed to doing a complete squat.)
  • 10 reps of the same exercise with your opposite leg to the side of your squatting leg
  • 10 reps of the same exercise with your opposite leg positioned behind your squatting leg
  • Switch legs and repeat. You will find these exercises to be a bit challenging so try to make 10 reps each and work your way up to a max of 25 reps for each step per leg.

While ankle strengthening and proprioception exercises are a great way to help prevent ankle injuries, unfortunately they will still occur. For example, no amount of joint strength can protect your ankle from rolling if you come down on another player’s foot after a rebound. This can be especially problematic if you have a history of ankle injuries, as studies show that you are 70% more likely to re-sprain your ankle after initially spraining it. Once ligaments stretch, they stay stretched, making your ankle loose, unstable, and prone to chronic ankle instability

Many times the best way to prevent ankle injuries while maintaining high levels of athletic performance is to wear a preventative, hinged ankle brace that allows for full range of motion. Any device that restricts your normal joint range of motion, such as a lace-up ankle brace, can lead to weakening of the ankle joint and restriction of high-level performance ­– which is the opposite of what bracing should help accomplish.

For those of you with more specific ankle injury prevention or ankle bracing question, feel free to send a quick message to myself or one of our certified athletic trainers and we’d be happy to talk through your situation with you!

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