When we see an elite athlete like Rory McIlroy rupture the ligament in his ankle (the ATFL, or anterior talofibular ligament), we reflect on principles of training and prevention. And we ask ourselves, “Could his injury have been prevented?”
It’s unclear if certain injuries could have been prevented. We need to recognize that some injuries are simply accidents: the wrong place, the wrong conditions, the wrong time with the wrong force. Not all injuries can be prevented. However, many can be reduced.
To help reduce ankle injuries in general, three key principles are to be considered:
1.) It’s not all about the ankle. The hip and the entire lower leg play a role in the stability and flexibility of the ankle. In fact, many will argue that the hip is a main contributing factor to the mechanics and strength of the ankle. Strengthening the hip, especially the gluteus medius, will help to improve overall ankle and lower extremity stability.
2.) Flexibility. Keeping muscles and joints flexible in the leg will help create stronger mechanics in the ankle to mobilize itself in certain positions.
3.) Balance. Balance can be trained and can improve, but it has to be challenged. This means training on uneven surfaces, eyes open, eyes closed, and holding steady for longer periods of time. Most ankle injuries occur on uneven surfaces, so we must train balance and proprioception. Proprioception is recognizing where your body is in space and making adjustments. This is something that is a trainable skill and often helps to reduce injury.
TRUE OR FALSE?? Once the pain of an ankle sprain is gone, the ankle is stable again.
FALSE!! A sprained ligament takes six to eight weeks to heal. Following through with the above strengthening, flexibility, and balance/proprioceptive program will help to reduce the recurrence of injury or the likelihood of rupturing of the ligament.
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