This post was written by Emily Mize, ATC, certified athletic trainer, Parkview Sports Medicine.
According to the National Library of Medicine, “Approximately 40% of all traumatic ankle injuries and nearly half of all ankle sprains occur during athletic activity, with basketball (41.1%), football (9.3%) and soccer (7.9%) having the highest incidence. Ankle sprain is more prevalent in females, children, and athletes taking part in indoor and court sports.” The prominence prompts one very important question about prevention: What can active individuals do to avoid a sidelining sprain?
Strategies for preventing ankle sprains
Search online or ask any trainer, and they’ll tell you that there are programs and regimens available for strengthening the ankles. Proprioceptive and neuromuscular training are two approaches that can be helpful for athletes. But when it comes to the efficacy of these strategies, the research isn’t exactly clear.
According to Vriend, et al., a 2017 randomized control trial looked at recurrent injuries after participating in an ankle strengthening program. The authors found that there was not a significant enough difference between players who followed a neuromuscular training program compared to those who did not.
In a 2022 article, however, researchers shared that injury prevention programs that included balance training exercises reduced the risk of ankle injury rates among soccer players by 36%, compared to athletes who did not participate in one, offering some evidence of efficacy.
Ultimately, there are many factors that lead to injury, and often, a number of them are out of the athlete’s control. While there is no way to guarantee injury prevention, players can strengthen their ankles and improve their proprioceptive feedback with training programs, which can reduce the risk of injury.
M. Van Reijen, I. Vriend, V. Zuidema, W. van Mechelen, E.A. Verhagen,
The “Strengthen your ankle” program to prevent recurrent injuries: A randomized controlled trial aimed at long-term effectiveness, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Volume 20, Issue 6, 2017, Pages 549-554, ISSN 1440-2440.
Wesam Saleh A Al Attar, Ehdaa H Khaledi, Jumana M Bakhsh, Oliver Faude, Hussain Ghulam, Ross H Sanders, Injury prevention programs that include balance training exercises reduce ankle injury rates among soccer players: a systematic review, Journal of Physiotherapy, Volume 68, Issue 3, 2022, Pages 165-173.