In every community across the nation, parents and grandparents crowd athletic fields every season to watch their loved ones compete. For the most part, it’s a fun time to cheer on your child as they attempt to execute the things they’ve learned during practice.
Then there are those moments when your child goes down on the field, and your heart just sinks. There’s an audible gasp in the bleachers, and you run to the edge of the field to find out what went wrong and how severe the injury is.
Fortunately, the injury is often a minor soft tissue ligament or muscle sprain or strain like a sprained ankle. In fact, sprained ankles are particularly common among young athletes, accounting for an estimated 15%-20% of all sports injuries.
While it’s difficult to watch your child get injured, accidents happen, right? Yes, but there are things you can do to help your young athlete avoid an ankle sprain, according to the highly skilled team at Cardio Metabolic Institute.
Ankle sprain explained
While it’s unrealistic to assume you can prevent every injury from happening, there are best practices that you can implement to make incidents less likely. To understand why certain practices reduce the risk for experiencing an ankle sprain, it’s useful to understand the mechanics of an ankle sprain.
When it comes to sprained ankles, it all comes down to ligaments. Healthy, strong ligaments in an ankle joint provide stability by preventing too much side-to-side motion. Sprained ankles happen as a result of overstretching or tearing one or more ankle ligaments.
An ankle sprain happens when your foot lands wrong when performing a movement like walking, jumping, or running, creating imbalance and instability. This triggers the perfect storm for an injury.
While the pain and swelling of a typical ankle sprain may seen fairly minor in comparison to a broken bone or a concussion, when it comes to ankle sprains in young athletes, if the athlete doesn’t fully heal from the injury, the ankle joint may become vulnerable and subject to chronic ankle sprains — about 25%-30 % of the time.
Strategies to avoid ankle sprains typically break down into two main categories — providing external support for the ankle ligaments and joint and strengthening the muscles and ligaments to provide a stronger, more stable foundation to begin with.
Applying external support through taping or bracing
External means for reinforcing the ankle include the tried-and-true method of taping and bracing, which provides stability by limiting excessive foot and ankle movement. While ankle taping offers immediate compression and support, its effects can be short-lived as the tape typically loosens up during activity.
Soft ankle braces made from fabric have become a popular go-to because, unlike taping, athletes don’t need a trainer or coach to apply it. Athletes wear ankle braces over their socks and secure them in place on their own with laces or straps. While soft braces may loosen up during a game or workout session, the athlete can easily periodically tighten them for optimal support.
Preventing sprains through functional exercise
Perhaps the best way to reduce the likelihood for your young athlete to suffer an ankle sprain is to not only make sure that every game or workout starts off with a formal warm-up session, but also focus on functional exercise programs.
Functional exercise is similar to physical therapy, but it zeros in on all of the everyday movements, which are also the movements that typically happen during sports, like twisting, squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, and bending.
Strengthen and stabilize ligaments and muscles
Here at Cardio Metabolic Institute, a functional medicine approach helps our patients optimize overall health by getting to the root of their issue. With sprained ankles, that means strengthening their core and building stronger muscles.
Functional exercise also enhances balance, agility, and flexibility, which not only puts you at lower risk for falls, but also provides extra stability for side-to-side motion, making it less likely to turn or twist your ankle.
If you’re concerned about ankle sprains in your young athlete, contact Cardio Metabolic Institute in Somerset, Monroe Township, East Brunswick, or Edison, New Jersey for a consultation. Click the “Book online” button, or call us today.