Ankle sprains are the most common injury in sports, accounting for 40% of all injuries and 10% of ER visits. Sometimes ankle sprains are relatively minor and they heal on their own, but it’s estimated that long term sequelae occur in up to 50% of people with lateral ankle sprains. Studies found that residual instability occurs in 20% to 40% of people after a grade II lateral ankle sprain.
Following acute ankle sprains our bodies have decreased balance and postural control which can lead to increased postural sway and increase the risk of falling later in life. Sprained ankles also result in compromised proprioception (body position sense) and mechanoreceptor function (detects touch, pressure, and vibration changes) in our muscles and joints which help control muscle stiffness and joint stability. People with unilateral chronic ankle instability have inhibition of their hamstrings on both sides and delayed hip and thigh muscle activation patterns.
Without proper ankle rehab, there is an increased risk of chronic ankle instability. Several new studies on people and animals suggest that a single sprained ankle can alter how well and often you move for life. In one study, students with chronic ankle instability moved significantly less than the other students, taking 2,000 fewer steps on average each day (Reynolds, 2015). With proper rehab it is possible to regain your balance and stability again. A good rehab program incorporates strength, stability, balance, and gets the ankle moving optimally.
If you’ve recently sprained your ankle, be sure to properly heal and rehab it. If you’ve suffered an ankle injury in the past it is important to get it checked because it can lead to compensatory injuries higher up the kinetic chain on the same or even on the other side of the body.
Click the link below to watch a video from our Facebook page that demonstrates the effect on balance and proprioception after an knee injury, before full rehabilitation.