Bouncing Back from an Ankle Sprain


Ankle sprains are unfortunately a common injury for runners.

A sprain is a stretch or tear in a ligament that holds two bones together. In your ankle there are three smaller ligaments on the outside (where most sprains occur as the foot rolls in) and one big ligament on the inside (where only about five percent of sprains occur). A mild sprain usually involves a stretch or partial tear of the anterior talofibular ligament in the front and outside of the ankle. Letting the tendon heal is your best strategy for a rapid return to activity while minimising your risk of future sprains. Most sprains heal 100 percent, but you can expect it to take 12 or more weeks.

These tips will help with recovery-

  • The rule of thumb is to return to running when you are pain-free, have full range of motion, and the strength in the injured ankle is equal to that in your uninjured side. With a mild sprain and a functionally protective brace, you can often return to running in a couple of weeks. That said, the clock to full healing resets to 12 weeks every time you tweak the ligament – so caution is key.
  • The best exercises I’d recommend for stabilising the ankle are toe and heel walking. Try to build up to doing three to five minutes of each.
  • Any cardio work that does not put your ankle ligaments at risk for re-injury and does not cause pain is fair game. Biking, rowing, elliptical, swimming, deep-water running, or kayaking should be safe.
  • Preventing future sprains is difficult to address as ligaments are basically like tough rubber bands that will deform or tear if the “wrong” stress is placed on them. However, maintaining good core and leg strength may reduce your risk if it keeps you from fatiguing early and losing your footing while running.


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