One Good Turn (of the Ankle) Leads To Another

A sprained ankle is one of the most common injuries of the lower extremity, with approximately 8 million people spraining an ankle each year. Also known as twisting or turning the ankle, it can happen as a result of playing sports, running on uneven surfaces, or just walking along. The foot turns in on the leg, which can lead to a stumble, trip, or fall.

There are some interesting statistics that show that people who sprain their ankles will injure them again in the same way up to 80% of the time. Why does one injury put someone at such major risk of repeating the injury?

Studies have shown that many people who have a tendency of spraining their ankle have poor balance. This can be demonstrated by standing upright (have something close to hold on to) and standing on one foot. The more wobbly you feel, the better the chances are that you will sprain an ankle, often repeatedly. This can be remedied by some simple exercises to increase the strength of the muscles. Again, stand on one leg and try not to wobble. Hold that position for one minute and repeat on the other leg.

Why does balance training help someone from repeatedly turning their ankle? As an ankle is sprained, the supporting ligaments are injured. They do heal, but in a stretched position. There are receptors in the ligament that are damaged also, which provides feedback to the brain about the position of the joint. This feedback becomes faulty with persistent injury and the balance suffers as a result.

While ankle supports and braces are helpful to provide stability to the weakened joint, pursuing a regimen of exercise to increase the balance is particularly helpful. This can be as simple as standing on one foot and balancing when you are brushing your teeth every day. If you want a greater challenge and result, there are a number of balance boards and mats available.
Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.
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