If you are a person that’s rolled/sprained your ankle before, odds are, you’ve rolled that same ankle a few times and ankle stability is an issue. Maybe you’ve tried a support brace, or athletic tape while playing sports or boots when hiking instead of shoes… But you’ve still managed to roll it again. Why does this happen? Chances are, you haven’t had a proper rehabilitation program or actual treatment for the damaged muscles and ligaments after your last injury – this is where a sports chiropractor comes in, read on to learn how to improve your ankle stability and help prevent future injuries!
The first time you roll your ankle (we’re referring to the common ‘inversion ankle sprain’ here, where the foot rolls to the inside of the ankle), multiple things happen – first, muscles in your leg fire to try and regain your balance, if that fails, your last bit of support from ligaments try to hold the bones together and prevent the roll, lastly the body continues and either stretches or tears the ligaments to complete the full ankle roll, at which point your brain now thinks you have quite an impressive (but unhealthy!) range of motion.
As your ankle recovers, with or without any hands-on treatment, the tissues may regain some or all of their strength, but the main problem is, the brain thinks that your ankle now has an extreme range of motion and no longer tries to fire your leg muscles when you start to lose your balance again, making it much easier to roll your ankle again! This is why the myth of ankle support from strategies like a simple ankle sleeve, high ankle boots, or ankle taping is very ineffective at preventing future ankle rolls – the little support they offer is no match for your 100+ pounds of bodyweight plus the momentum you’re carrying as you lose your balance.
With hands-on treatment with your sports chiropractor, the damaged muscles and ligaments in your ankle and leg can be treated to improve their strength and function by reducing scar tissue but even then, without a proper rehab program, your ankle will still be prone to rolling – which leads me to the next myth… standing on one leg does not improve your ankle stability. I shake my head every time I hear the story of a patient rolling an ankle despite having done rehab, but when asked what the rehab routine was, it doesn’t usually go much farther than a few calf raises or standing on one leg.
Any sports rehab specialist will agree that the proper way to rehab an injury is in a similar environment as it will be exposed to. This means, for example, that a soccer player could be progressed from a dynamic single-leg stand which includes challenging movements in the rest of the body such as catching/throwing a ball, single leg squats, and wobble board training to working on simple movements such as sudden direction changes (cutting), single leg hops in different directions and then finally to light practice before being considered fully recovered. Simply standing still on one leg makes you good at standing still on one leg, which doesn’t help you when you go for a run, hike up a mountain, step off a curb or play your sport.