It’s an athlete’s right of passage

Alex working with Eric on sports physical therapy

The first time may have happened as you landed from a jump playing basketball or making a cut while playing soccer. And since that first time, it has happened several more times.

What should you do the next time you sprain your ankle? Should you go to an athletic physical therapy clinic like ours in McLean and Bethesda?

Most likely, it will be swollen and painful, but you should be able to put some weight through it.

If you cannot put any bodyweight through your ankle, see a physical therapist or doctor immediately.

Assuming a fracture has been ruled out, it is time to start the physical therapy process immediately. The sooner you get started, the quicker you recover!

Initial goals are to reduce swelling, restore the range of motion to the ankle, and get back to walking pain-free, without a limp.

Range of motion is often restricted by joint swelling, and below are a few tips to help.

  1. Move the injured ankle through a comfortable range of motion. This can be drawing circles with your ankle, drawing out the ABCs with your ankle, or pumping your ankle up and down. The important thing is that the joint is being moved.
  2. Elevate the limb above the heart as much as possible.
  3. Perform aerobic exercise that elevates your heart rate to increase blood flow to the area, which will help clear out extra fluid in the joint. An exercise bike is recommended so that weight bearing is not an issue.

Next is strengthening.

Once you have restored the normal range of motion and can comfortably bear weight through the injured joint, it is time to start building up the ankle’s tolerance to higher loads and the demands of life/sport. This will be a combination of strengthening and balance exercises.

Here are a few exercises to help you work on strengthening and balance.

Single leg stance with rotation
Front foot elevated heel raise
Multidirectional RDL 

Finally, the fun phase. Sport-specific movements! Movements during this phase are tailored to your sport, often involving change of direction/cutting drills. Various jumping and hopping movements, called plyometrics, are also included.

Below are 2 examples of plyometrics drills we have used with our athletes.

Alternating split stance leaps
Lateral bounds
It is important that you feel 100% confident in your ankle before you are finished with rehab.

If you or someone you know recently sprained their ankle, reply to this email and accelerate your return to the field!

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