How to Avoid Ankle Sprains
Reoccurring ankle sprains often have less to do with a lack of strength around the ankle as much as a loss of balance and proprioception—the ability to know where your joint is in space. Proprioception is a fancy word, but the concept is relatively simple. Here’s how it works:
Close your eyes and make a fist. Place one finger up, then two. You can sense where your fingers are, right? That’s not because you’re looking at them, but because you can feel them due to proprioceptors in your ligaments.
When you first sprain your ankle, you damage the ligaments, which in turn damage the proprioceptors in that area. When you suffer another sprain, it isn’t necessarily a lack of strength that’s at fault, but since you weren’t looking at your ankle, you had less of a sense of where it was in space, so you turned it.
Re-establishing balance and proprioception will help you avoid future ankle sprains. Try balance activities that challenge your vision, like the 5-level progression below.
Perform this progression as part of your training program or at home when you have a few minutes. Progress from one level to the next to continue challenging yourself and improving proprioception. Do this someplace where you can easily touch to regain your balance if needed, such as a doorway.
- Level 1: Stand on one leg for 30 seconds. Repeat on your other leg.
- Level 2: Same as level one, but with your eyes closed.
- Level 3: Same as level one, but stand on an unstable surface like a pillow or "stability trainer."
- Level 4: Same as level three, but with your eyes closed.
- Level 5: Standing on one leg, turn your head to the left, right, up, and down. This is one repetition. Repeat 5 times.