Rolled an Ankle? Now What: Try This Anti-Ankle Sprain Strategy Plan


If you ask an active individual or athlete of all ages and levels if they’ve ever had an ankle sprain injury, they’ll more often than not respond with a yes. WHY? Ankle sprains are a common injury and occur the majority of the time on the lateral (outside) of the ankle.  Although many times these injuries appear to be a fluke or a ‘wrong place-wrong time’ type of injury, there’s usually underlying causes to the ankle being susceptible to injury. The foot and ankle complexes have many soft tissue structures including ligaments that can be supportive for the foot and ankle and are the main tissues impacted with ankle injuries. 


This blog will focus on the lateral ankle sprain as it is the most common, how to improve your ankle stability if you’ve had an ankle sprain, and what you can do to prevent ankle sprains in the future to prevail in your training goals rather than postpone them due to injury. 


A typical ankle sprain occurs 80-90% of the time when the foot is in a plantarflexed and inverted position for a low ankle sprain of the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) and calcaneofibular ligament (CFL). The frequency of lateral ankle sprains also has a high likelihood of recurring due to residual instability if not addressed with appropriate rehab and training. The research estimates a 10-60% instability rate – but with the right training and approach instability can reduce. 

Photo: https://www.orthobullets.com/


Ankle sprains have varying degrees of swelling, pain, and functional limitations. There are three grades to ankle sprain severity. From mild, moderate to severe, every athlete’s injury is unique and the approach to recovery should be customized. The severity is dependent on the ligaments involved and the extent of injury, but also the athlete’s history should be taken into consideration if it’s an acute (new) sprain or if it’s something that is more chronic and recurring. 


Regardless of the severity, taking action is important for supporting recovery and a healing environment. The sooner you can restore pain free motion, maintain optimal joint range of motion to prevent stiffness and maintain proprioceptive input.  Proprioception is essentially how our body, nerves and positional receptors located in our joints have awareness of our body’s position and movement. It’s how we have body awareness with activities and movements from basic activities like sitting to more dynamic activities like running and sports.  As physical therapists we have advanced training in developing, training and restoring proprioception especially when it comes to injury recovery and preventative training. 


Tips for acute ankle sprains:

-Weight bearing to tolerance

-Elevate the ankle to reduce swelling

-Restore range of motion and maintain dorsiflexion range of motion as much as possible

-Gentle ankle isometrics exercises and proprioception (light resistance in available pain free range of motion)


Below are videos for recommendations to get you started on your anti-ankle sprain strategy plan and get you on track if you’re recovering from an ankle sprain.  


Disclaimer: the content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider such as a physical therapist with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


Maintain ROM

-Ankle Circles/CARS


-Knee to Wall Dorsiflexion Mobility Drill


Weight bearing to tolerance

Ankle Rocks 


Hip/Glute Strengthening Exercises 

Glute Bridge *if tolerated


Side lying Hip Abduction


Ankle Complex Strengthening and Proprioception


Heel Raises (Knees Straight)

Heel Raises knee bent (double and single legs)



If you feel like you have a frequent history of ankle sprains, try this warm up as a preventative strategy to prepare your ankles for whatever may come your way.


The exercises above are a great starting point for recovering from an ankle sprain, but if you’re looking for the watchful eye and a more specific exercise program to strengthen your ankles and identify the potential root case for why you have frequent ankle sprains, please reach out to us for a personalized approach. 


If you’re still not getting the progress you want as you work towards your goals, or if you have pain or injury that you’re trying to work around, we can help! We help busy and active individuals live strong and confident lives.  We do this through comprehensive packages that include 1-on-1 in-person or virtual sessions sessions, remote exercise programming and mobility programming, and nutrition coaching that is customized to you.


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