In previous articles we discussed research on ankle sprains and chronic ankle instability prevalence by sport, complications associated with ankle sprains and how to return to sport after experiencing an ankle sprain. 

In this article I want to talk about the research and how ankle behaves with a single leg drop jump from a 1 foot box. Observing how the foot and ankle react when landing from a jump closely mimics movements seen when strength training (plyometrics) and can help physical therapists better understand how to treat ankle sprains in athletes. 

Similar to changes in mechanics and muscle activity with walking, the preparation and completion of jumping from a box demonstrates changes as well. Researchers studying ankle sprains looked at muscle activity, placement of pressure in the foot by using a force plate, and visual data looking at the alignment of the hip, foot and ankle. 

The study suggests that there are several changes that occur when performing a drop jump with a sprained ankle. 

The first is a decrease in peroneus longus activity before initiating the jump. The PL is responsible for resisting the ankle from rolling inwards. 

The second is that the ankle is placed in a more inverted position prior to the jump. This is precisely the position the ankle is in when an inversion sprain occurs. The PL is responsible for keeping the foot in a neutral position. 

Third, there is less dorsiflexion ankle after the foot comes into contact with the ground and it moves slower to get into a dorsiflexed position. Dorsiflexion is when the knees passes over the toes (a good thing). 

Fourth, when the foot is in contact with the floor, the weight is shifted closer to the inside and back. This alters where the body weight is placed, requiring compensatory movement, placing stress in joints where they wouldn’t “normally” be.

Fifth, the joint is maximally loaded earlier and when the foot is in a position of relative instability. 

The summary of ankle sprains and jumping:

The ankle is in a poor joint position, there is altered muscle force production as well as timing and compensatory movement patterns when landing on a sprained ankle. 

All of this is a recipe for a repeat ankle sprain. Indeed, 73% of athletes will experience a second ankle sprain of the same ankle and 74% of athletes will experience pain, swelling, weakness and instability 2 years after the ankle sprain.

What is the best way to treat an ankle sprain?

The good news is that athletes can participate in specific rehabilitation exercises to address these complications and prevent subsequent ankle sprains from occurring. Injury prevention programs have successfully reduced lower limb injury by up to 80%. 

Rehabilitation exercises based on sport-specific tasks like jumping, running and cutting. 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!