In previous articles here, we discussed how ankle sprains can affect balance, walking, running and a functional tasks seen in strength training, drop jumps. Other articles I wrote about ankle sprain epidemiology including reinjury rates and associated complications.

Now let’s turn to how ankle sprains affect cutting in field sports. If you are an experiencing pain, instability and dysfunction after an ankle sprain, this article should help you better understand how to treat ankle sprain and how ankle sprains affect cutting mechanics.

Cutting and pivoting in sports intends to rapidly change the direction of the athlete in an attempt to outmaneuver their opponent. Planting the foot on the ground and changing direction requires a high degree of muscular force, balance and “field awareness”. Not only is the athlete focusing on what their body is doing, they must also be mindful of their environment- opponents, team mates, boundaries and the “goal”. 

In this article the researchers want to identify if there are changes in foot and ankle function when athletes experience functional ankle instability when they are cutting or pivoting on the field of play. Functional ankle instability is characterized by “giving way” of the ankle joint when participating in sport. 

Previous research, and articles that I wrote, demonstrate a significant difference in muscle function, joint position and compensatory movement patterns due to ankle instability. Given the position and high demands of cutting type motions, it would greatly benefit physical therapists helping athletes with ankle sprains to better understand what happens when an athlete is cutting, and they experience ankle instability.  

In this current article, the researchers observed fifteen male basketball players with cutting movements with a history of functional ankle instability due to an ankle sprain. The researchers measured ground reaction forces (amount of force placed through the foot when planted) when performing a v-cut and a shuffling movement. The athletes experiencing ankle instability were compared to a similar group of athletes that did not have ankle instability. 

The results demonstrate that unstable ankles had significantly higher initial contact forces and a shorter time to maximal force compared to stable ankles in the V-cut movement. Measurements from the lateral shuffle showed no significant differences between the two groups, meaning they performed the shuffle similarly. 

What does this mean for athletes experiencing ankle sprains?

For athletes that regularly engage in cutting-type activities on the field of play, there is a significant difference in how well the foot and ankle perform. Field sports including soccer, football, basketball and volleyball all require near-continuous cutting or shuffling to play offensively and defensively. 

The increase in force applied through the foot is compounded by body weight and it is directed towards a part of the joint that may not be adequately adapted to that stress. Over time, this repetitive excessive force can cause early arthritic changes as well as increase the risk of injury.

Can my cutting mechanics improve with training?

Absolutely! Specifically designed programs can “rewire” the brain and body to perform more efficiently. Progressively challenging exercises in a controlled environment can significantly improve confidence and facilitate quality movement for a safe return to sport. 

Injury prevention programs have successfully reduced lower limb injury by up to 80%. Given that 74% of athletes experience a repeat ankle injury of the same ankle, an 80% reduction could make or break an athletes career. 

A well-structured and progressive balance and strength training program can help bring you one step closer to the field.

If you are an athlete experiencing dysfunction due to an ankle sprain, we can help you recover and return to sport without medication and without surgery.

Give our office a call so we can help you get back to being an athlete!