Your ankle allows a great deal of foot mobility. As your foot makes contact with the ground, and even when you’re standing, your ankle has to control the position of your foot. It has to allow for uneven ground, and allow for the position of your body above it. If you’ve ever rolled your ankle then you’ll know it’s really quite painful. We can’t predict when or how you’re going to roll your ankle. We do know that once you’ve rolled your ankle, you’re far more likely to do it again. A rehabilitation program for the ankle will help reduce the risk of a second injury.
Tips to prevent recurrence on ankle injuries.
Complete all four phases of rehabilitation and continue a program through your sports career, etc.
Test your uninjured leg early in the rehabilitation process. When you injure one ankle, you will stop exercising the other leg as well. It is important to test the unaffected leg before it deconditions to ensure the most accurate information is used to compare your injured leg to.
Only return to sport when your physiotherapist has compared the function of both your ankles and advised that you are ready.
Rehabilitation will follow four main phases.
Phase 1 – The Acute phase. This is a fresh injury and you have a swollen, painful ankle. It hurts when you move and even more so when you try and put your weight on it. In this phase your physiotherapist will help reduce the swelling, and restore your ability to put your weight on it.
Protection from further injury, ice, compression and elevation are key components of this phase. Your rehabilitation starts in this phase as we maintain the range of movement through your ankle joint and use your body’s blood flow to help remove swelling.
An important part of rehabilitation after a rolled ankle is to build what is known as proprioception which includes your brain knowing exactly what position your joint is in and being able to control the movement with precision.
Phase 2 – The pain has settled; you may still have some swelling. Your physiotherapist will guide you through strength exercises for your ankle and entire leg. They will help build your proprioception into being able to balance on one leg. Your other leg will be tested, this information will be used as a measure of how well your injured ankle has progressed.
Phase 3 – No pain, no swelling. In this phase we work on the control of your ankle as you move. We test how well your ankle can handle load and speed. Comparison will be made to your other leg and this may be used as a guide for returning to certain sports/physical activities.
Phase 4 – High Level rehabilitation. Your physiotherapist will continue to progress the control of your ankles. Even those who don’t participate in sports should continue through this phase, this is an important part of preventing you from future ankle injuries. In this phase exercises will combine all elements of strength, control, reaction, etc. to protect you. Through this phase your ankle should have very similar control to your uninjured ankle.
Prevention of recurrent ankle sprains is going to be part of your life moving forward. It will be important to maintain your ankle exercise program given to you by your physiotherapist.