Ankle sprains are arguably the most common injury in sport. Even if you’ve never had one, you’ve seen them. Some are mild and within a few hours one seems to bounce back, others are severe and require months of rehabilitation and surgery may be needed. In cases of repeated spraining a gradual creep or lengthening of the ligaments may occur leading to a chronic instability and easy rolling of the ankle leading to more and more sprains.
O’Driscoll et al 2011 took an athlete with chronic ankle sprains and put him through a 6 week strengthening and balance program. The outcome measures were the Cumberland Ankle Instability Test, the Star Excursion Balance Test, ankle joint plantar flexion during a drop jump and ground reaction forces during normal gait.
Exercises included general strength training, specific strength training of hip and ankle stabilizers, plyometric drills and short sprints. The exercises were performed 5 days per week. This is interesting as it is among the only multi-modal strength training programs being used in a rehabilitation study.
Pre-treatment CAIT score was 4, post-treatment was 27! The athlete’s SEBT scores improved by 2.4-5.4% depending on the measurement. The plantar flexion of the ankle during a drop jump was reduced by 3 degrees and walking biomechanics improved.
This is a relatively easy to reproduce protocol. Most athletes would be able to complete it after a single supervised session each week to ensure proper form.
Granted a single study on a single athletic subject does not a program make but this moves the onus from the therapist on to the athlete and demonstrates across multiple outcome measures improvement. Larger studies need to be conducted but this is definitely a step in the right direction.