I've never been shot in either of my ankles but down the years, I have nastily sprained at least one of them. I'm not alone. Ankle sprains are common even at elite levels across many sports.

Need this be the case? Are ankles delicate parts of us that are susceptible to ligament damage?

I don't believe so. I think by design we're made out of tough stuff that gives us great degrees of elasticity and strength even in our extremities.

I just think most of us grow inelastic and weak through lack of use of certain movements and other processes...and that we can regain our elastic strength if we're intelligent and patient in our approach to doing so.

If you have what you consider to be a healthy ankle, do the following very slowly, in a controlled manner and to a comfortable degree - roll it in the same way that most people do accidentally to sprain their ankle, shifting your weight on your chosen foot towards the outside border. Then return to a normal standing position with your foot on the floor.

Done slowly, under control and monitoring your bodily sensations you no doubt noticed a feeling of stretch along the outside front part of that ankle. This feeling corresponds to a collection of muscles and other connective tissue lengthening and simultaneously contracting - eccentrically contracting - to pull the joint back towards your perceived neutral position from a perceived end range.

Often in an ankle sprain, this lengthening of the musculature and tissues happens too quickly or forcefully to reverse before perceived end range and the tissues rupture to some degree.

 

I remember many years ago doing a conventional rehab programme to recover from an ankle sprain which involved strengthening that tissue along the front lateral side of the ankle but I only ever was asked to improve my strength in a short range, pulling the front lateral side of my foot towards my shin. I was also asked to stretch the tissue without my foot on the floor pointing my foot in a similar manner to that which happens during an ankle sprain. With the foot removed from the floor, no significant loading of the damaged tissues would occur - very useful in the beginning stages of soft tissue rehab but not so useful going forward. 

We know that muscles develop strength and size in response to intermittent exposures to increased resistance over time. We also know that muscles only get stronger around the ranges that they are used to control (a typical figure is that strength increases around a joint occur up to 10-15 degrees either side of the position that isometric strength work is performed).

My rehab and most rehab failed to marry these two points together.

To rehab an ankle sprain better than I had the privilege of experiencing, progressive loading of the ankle tissues needs to be done around the sprain position. Over time, increase strength and control of these tissues at the end of range will also help expand the range and control of the joint.

Taking this course of action whilst healthy will help you bulletproof your ankles against sprains.

How many other "awkward" movements could this sort of strategy be applied to bulletproof against? Awkward is sometimes only awkward because we're unprepared for it.

 

Arton "Kevlar up" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Injury Rehab and Performance, Harley Street, London W1