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Balance Training Combats Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are common among active individuals, especially athletes who play sports such as basketball or soccer. However, jogging, running, cheerleading, and gymnastics are linked to ankle sprains as well.

This is because activities that require rapid acceleration and deceleration, quick direction changes, and precise movements can cause ankle sprains to occur. Although there are many ways you can sprain an ankle, balance training has been shown to dramatically lower the incidence of this particular injury. 

More specifically, research shows that a carefully guided balance-training program involving a variety of exercises that progressively become more challenging can help reduce the risk of ankle injuries by over 40 percent.

This percentage increases for people who are susceptible to ankle injuries (e.g., athletic population) when they combine the use of ankle braces with balance training. Beneficial exercises that are typically incorporated into a balance-training program include: 

  • Single leg stance
  • Tandem stance (one foot in front of the other) with arm or head movements 
  • Single leg squat
  • Single leg stance while swinging one raised leg
  • Single leg stance while engaging in a functional activity (e.g., catching, dribbling, kicking)
  • Single leg stance while holding a disk and rotating it clockwise as well as counter-clockwise
  • Sport or activity specific exercises to prepare for return to sport if appropriate

Balance training helps build body awareness of where the foot and leg are in space.  It also improves how quickly the foot and ankle muscles can respond to unsteadiness. Balance training also heightens muscle strength, coordination, and joint motion.

If an ankle sprain occurs and is not properly addressed through balance training or the use of a brace, it can affect how the whole leg works in a coordinated way leading to compensation at the foot, knee, hip or even low back. Accordingly, research shows that balance training can help people regain function in the ankle that allows them to return to their favourite activities.

In some cases, it also reduces the frequency and length of rehabilitation for serious ankle injuries.
For people who have a history of ankle sprains, using a brace in addition to a balancing program reduces the risk of further injury by about 70 percent.

This is because a brace decreases the ankle's range of motion, which subsequently lowers the chances of moving the ankle in an awkward manner beyond the limits of the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Bracing or taping in the early rehab phase also helps ankle tendons heal by reducing the strain that is placed on the ankles while moving around.

If you have experienced an ankle sprain that you are struggling to fully recover from, you may benefit from guided balance training with a Physical Therapist. After assessing your current level of mobility, pain, stiffness, and discomfort, a Physical Therapist will carefully design a training program to meet you where you currently are, and move you toward your activity goals. They will also examine your footwear or training gear. 

By working closely with a Physical Therapist, you can enhance your balance and posture in order to speed up the recovery process. Improved balance can also help you avoid further injuries in the future. There is no need to struggle with ankle issues that may be disrupting your ability to enjoy your favorite activities to the fullest. Speak with a Physical Therapist at Purposed Physical Therapy today to discuss what type of program may be best for you.

References

1. Bellows R. The effect of bracing and balance training on ankle sprain incidence among athletes: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2018;13(3):379-388.

2. McKeon PO, Hertel J. Systematic review of postural control and lateral ankle instability, part II: is balance training clinically effective? J Athl Train 2008;43(3):305-315.

3. Webster KA, Gribble PA. Functional rehabilitation interventions for chronic ankle instability: a systematic review. J Sport Rehabil 2010;19(1):98-114.

4. Sefton JM, Hicks-Little CA, Hubbard TJ, et al. The effects of short-term intense balance training on sensorimotor function in individuals with chronically ankle instability. J Athl Train 2008;43(3):S-65.

5. Dizon JMR, Reyes JJB. A systematic review on the effectiveness of external ankle supports in the prevention of inversion ankle sprains among elite and recreational players. J Sci Med Sport. 2010;13(3):309-317.

6. Verhagen EALM, Bay K. Optimizing ankle sprain prevention: a critical review and practical appraisal of the literature. Br J Sports Med. 2010;44(15):1082-1088.

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