Get back in the game after an ankle injury
By Daniela Ginta
Ankle injuries are some of the most common types of injuries that may seem easy to recover from —unless you’ve had one, that is. From sprained ankles to torn ligaments and broken bones, ankle injuries happen to recreational and seasoned athletes alike. Contrary to what people may think, it has nothing to do with one’s fitness level. What makes it, or breaks it (no pun intended) is allowing proper time for rehabilitation, which could take anywhere from six to 12 weeks for moderate ankle sprains and up to six months for more serious injuries such as fractures and torn ligaments, says Alex Fell, a Vancouver physiotherapist at Gastown Physio and a high performance coach with the Canadian Ski Coaches Federation.
The whole body connection
Muscle atrophy, a normal occurrence with immobilized legs, adds to the challenge. After removing the cast or walking boot you will most likely experience stiffness and a change in the mechanical pattern that affects stability and typical range of movement. It is safe to assume that lack of pain is a positive sign, but recovery from an injured ankle also involves regaining stability, balance and ability to perform all the functional tasks. Without proper rehabilitation there is a high risk of developing a functional ankle instability, says Fell, which may lead to reinjury in approximately 40 to 70 per cent of people.
Safe return to sports
Fell advises using the stationary bike during the first couple of weeks to avoid the risk of accidents or having to put sudden weight on the recovering foot.
Once your foot has gained back its full mobility and is stable enough to sustain running, start with 1:3 or 1:4 run/walk program that gradually builds up running minutes. It is important that the ankle joint is stable by then, because the first point of contact with the ground is through that foot/ankle complex and the way the whole load of that impact is attenuated will affect the joint stacking above it, explains Fell.
To brace or not to brace
Daniela Ginta, MSc, is a freelance writer in Vancouver B.C. She runs and cycles and has recovered successfully from more than one ankle injury.