Ankle Sprains: Post-Season Rehabilitation to Ensure Next Season’s Success
As the sports season comes to an end, athletes often find themselves in various states of physical health. Some emerge unscathed, while many others may be dealing with ongoing injuries that were sustained throughout the season. One common injury that athletes of all ages and levels experience, especially in high-impact and change or direction sports, is the ankle sprain. Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments supporting the ankle joint are stretched or torn, often due to sudden twisting or rolling of the foot. The severity of ankle sprains can vary and are commonly graded according to severity ranging from mild (Grade I) to moderate (Grade II) to severe (Grade III) sprains. In some cases ankle sprains do not fully recover before people return to their sport or previous activities, which can result in ongoing pain, swelling, instability and risk for reinjury. To ensure a smooth transition to a full recovery before starting next year’s preseason or your upcoming summer sport, it’s important to ensure your ankle sprain has been fully rehabilitated.
Physiotherapy for Ankle Sprains: Post-Season Approach
The first step in post-season rehabilitation for ongoing issues following an ankle sprain is a thorough assessment by a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist will evaluate the extent of the ankle injury, its impact on your athletic performance, and any underlying factors that may have contributed to the injury occurring in the first place.
Depending on the extent of the injury and the symptoms present, a range or treatment modalities may be used to help the ankle sprain recover. Some common areas that are addressed following an ankle sprain include:
- Restoring range of motion: it is important to regain the movement of the ankle joint so that you can use the joint in all angles that are needed for your day-to-day activities as well as for the requirements of your sport.
- Strength building: progression through a range of strengthening exercises is important to not only regain your athletic performance but to also help reduce the risk of future injuries. Targeting the muscles around the ankle enhances stability and support.
- Balance and proprioception training: balance exercises are important for retraining the ankle and improving proprioception, reducing the risk of future injuries. These proprioceptive drills enhance the body’s awareness and coordination which helps when returning to uneven surfaces and into uncontrolled movements that occur in most sports.
- Functional rehabilitation: as athletes progress in their rehabilitation journey, a physiotherapist will incorporate functional exercises that mimic the demands of their sport. These exercises prepare athletes for being able to execute sport specific skills such as sprinting, kicking, jumping, and landing.
Post-Season Rehabilitation Tips
- Commit to rehabilitation: dedicate yourself to your rehabilitation plan. Consistency and discipline are important for success.
- Manage pain and symptoms: follow your physiotherapist’s advice regarding pain and symptom management. Proper management throughout the rehabilitation progress is important for successful rehabilitation.
- Prevent future injuries: continue with ankle-strengthening exercises even after recovery. A physiotherapist will be able to advise you whether an ankle brace or taping is recommended following your return to sport to reduce the risk of reinjury.
For athletes, the end of the season is not just a time to rest; it’s a time for strategic rehabilitation. Seek the advice of a physiotherapist to create a personalised post-season plan tailored to your needs to ensure that your body is ready for the challenges of the next season!
Liam Toohey Senior Physiotherapist Lake Health Group