My son is a sophomore in high school and will be going out for basketball next week. He is quite athletic, but has had many ankle sprains in the past. Is there anything that he could do from a preventative standpoint.
The foot and ankle joints are very complex in function and mechanics. There are several muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints that have to work in concert with one another in order to prevent injury and sustain healthy movement. Basketball, running, jumping sports and sports that require a lot of sharp cuts or fast movements such as football and soccer could be a liability to the ankle if certain conditioning factors are not in place. When a person sprains an ankle, they stretch ligaments that are a major support to the joint. Ligaments are non-elastic bands and once they are stretched, they will never provide the same support to the joint. When this occurs, we must rely upon the muscles around the joint and internal balance (propioception) to compensate for the ligamentous laxity. After an ankle is sprained, we recommend a certain type of ankle manipulation to the tibio-taylor joint that will help prevent recurrent sprains. There are certain rehabilitation protocols utilizing a Bapst board, rocker board and wobble board, which puts a person in an unstable positions, in a controlled envirorment so that when they are in an uncontrolled envirorment, they will know how to respond to the instability. This trains the nervous system to know what and how to respond to certain torsional stresses. A good analogy of how this works is when a person learns how to ride a bike, this coordinated activity has to be learned which takes effort as well as coordination in order to achieve that activity. After a person “trains the neurology” and learns how to ride a bike, they could be off a bike for years, and will not have to re-learn all over again. Since they trained the neurology, they could jump on a bike years later and ride off without hesitation.
In some cases depending on the ankle structure, conditioning level and severity of past ankle injuries, wearing an ankle support and or a foot orthotic may also be of benefit.