Did you know that ankle sprains account for close to 15% of all sports-related injuries? Among the most common injuries benching athletes are ankle sprains, stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and tendonitis. These injuries usually occur after strenuous activities like running or jumping, which can cause you to land on your feet wrong. Taking preventative measures before the game, and providing the right post-game recovery can reduce your likelihood of injuries. Here’s what you can do to strengthen your ankles for game time:
Wear the Proper Gear
Choosing the right gear for your game will help keep your joints supported and reduce the risk of injury. Compression socks are some of the most popular sports socks for during and after a game. The reason being is that athletic compression socks mimic medical ankle taping, which enhances movement and reduces the risk of injury. Unlike traditional taping though, compression socks can be worn for long periods of time and actually help strengthen muscles over time.
An added bonus is that compression socks reduce leg fatigue so that you can keep playing or practicing for longer. Off the field, they are great for promoting healthy blood circulation to reduce swelling and promote faster healing. Compression socks should be paired with the right pair of athletic shoes for your sport to further protect ankles.
Stay Alert for Uneven Pathways
Whenever possible, avoid training on uneven terrain. If you’re a runner, keep an eye out for potholes, tree roots or debris, as it’s easy to trip over these items and twist your ankle. Runners should also avoid brick and cobblestone pathways and sandy areas because it can be easy to land awkwardly on your foot and injure yourself. If you’re a soccer or football player, practicing on the same type of terrain you’ll be playing on is also helpful for priming the muscles.
Stretch and Practice Ankle Exercises
Don’t wait until you’ve got a sprain, ankle exercises are great for strengthening ligaments and preventing common ankle injuries. Incorporate these ankle exercises into your warm-up routine:
Ankle ABC’s – Just like the name suggests, you’ll be spelling out the alphabet with your foot. To do this, sit down in a chair and slowly draw out the upper and lowercase letters of the alphabet. This increases range of motion and builds strength in the ligaments of the ankle.
Ankle Circles – Again, grab a chair for this one. With one leg lifted in the air, roll ankles clockwise and then counter-clockwise to work the muscle in both directions.
Heel Walks – To do these, lift the front of your foot of the floow. Shift the balance to your heels and walk across the room and back. Doing so helps stretch the tendons in your ankle and legs.
Foot Stretches – Grab a resistance band and wrap it around a fixed surface like the leg of your bed or a table. With your foot looped inside, point your foot down and slowly point it back up. Repeat this 10 times, and then move your foot left to right.
Wall Stretches – After your workout, calf stretches are great for stretching muscles out. To do this, place the ball of your foot against a wall with your heel on the floor and your legs straightened. Keep an even split of pressure through all 5 toes and press your hips forward and hold for 30 seconds.
Sometimes an ankle injury is unavoidable, but by using the tips above you can strengthen muscles to greatly reduce your risk. No one wants to get benched during a big game. Take care of your body and use the right gear to get the most of your workouts or tournaments.