Suffering from chronic ankle sprains? Don’t forget to look at this factor

Posted on May 14, 2018

(Last Updated On: May 14, 2018)

When most sprain their ankle, it happens in what’s called an inversion sprain.

Also known as a lateral ankle sprain,

In someone with chronic ankle sprains it’s common to,

  • Tie the shoes tighter
  • Wear higher topped shoes
  • Try an ankle brace
  • Play with ankle taping (if available)

The above tends to happen in that order. If that doesn’t work, people (hopefully) move to physical therapy. Working on range of motion, strengthening the ankle, unstable surface training.

-> Ideally though exercise is implemented right after the first sprain. Doing nothing after a sprain is a great way to make the ankle susceptible to another.

Below are some examples of unstable surface training, where the idea is the surface moves some, but you’re trying to *prevent* your ankle from moving too much:

The goal is crucial. It’s to avoid ankle mobilization. To stabilize the ankle. We’re trying to stop excessive stretching into inversion.

And these modalities can be very helpful. Whenever something is chronic though, some consideration often should to be given to what a person does chronically. That is, rather than only look at when a person has issues, say, their strength and proprioception playing basketball, look at everything else too. Like when they aren’t playing basketball. Even a professional athlete spends more hours not doing their sport than doing it.

So you’re Steph Curry and have a history of this happening to your ankles:

He wants his foot to plant on the floor, but it turns over:

steph curry turning his ankle GIF

This is happening chronically, so we can say the ankle(s) too easily move into inversion. He is unfortunately very good at that motion. He is, UNdesirably, very flexible at the ankle.

We get good at what we practice. It’s not a coincidence after you have one sprain you’re more likely to have another. After you practice that level of flexibility, you’re –unintentionally– more easily able to replicate it. Sometimes we get good at things we don’t want to be good at.

This turning of the ankle motion is what we’ve been trying to avoid by bracing and taping, right? It’s what we’ve been trying to strengthen the ankle to be able to prevent with exercise too. We’re trying to get good at avoiding rolling the ankle. But so far in our typical model, bracing, unstable training, proprioception training, we’ve only focused on helping the ankle when doing the sport.

But if you’re Steph Curry, when not playing basketball, would it be a good idea to sit like this?

Stephen Curry Sitting Ankles Steph Curry Sitting Ankle History

From this four minute interview clip, where his ankles are like that the entire time.


We wouldn’t want this either:

Steph Curry Ankle while sitting

Notice the inside of the foot turned up some.

Steph Curry ankle turned up

He’s not intentionally doing it, but he’s getting his ankles good at being in that position. He’s practicing rolling his ankle, the movement he wants to avoid! Instead, we’d rather he sit like this:

Steph Curry ankle sitting flat

If you’re Chef Curry, that’s much tastier ankle positioning.

Another scenario is laying down. If your ankle(s) have become lax on the outside, your default position may be something like this:

Laying Down Ankle Supinated

We wouldn’t want that. Instead we want something like this:

Laying down ankle straight

So if anything, we can stiffen up that lateral side some. Just like you may be trying to do brace or exercise wise. You may even want to use a pillow or something to help prevent and remind the ankle that “getting loose” is for people listening to Drake music, not ankles.

Laying down ankle supported to prevent inversion

This is no different than if you have your arm bent for a long time, then it gets stiff, and it’s subsequently harder to straighten. If you’ve ever been in a cast you’re nodding your head. We can all relate to sitting in a cramped space, legs really bent, then we get up, like out of the car on a road trip, and we can feel the tightness. You’re not doing it intentionally, but you’re training your muscles / ligaments / tendons to get good at being in a shorter (tighter) position. Perhaps you take frequent stops to prevent this from happening.

What we’re saying here is not only do we want to hold the ankle in a position so it does get tighter in that position, we also want to prevent it from getting loose. Flexibility has a threshold of goodness. More is not always better. Less is not always worse. Too flexible ankles, or ankles which aren’t tight enough, are ankles which can sprain too easily.

Whether this will be the deciding factor in getting over chronic ankle sprains is tough to know. For instance, if Steph Curry only sits like that once a week, it’s unlikely to matter.

-> Though with a history like his, and ankles valued at millions, if not billions, of dollars, you want to be doing everything to tilt the odds in your favor. And my experience with people is however you catch them sitting or doing something when talking to someone else -their mind is preoccupied- is likely how they do something during a lot of activities. e.g. if you sit like that at a desk, you probably drive like that, watch a movie like that, lay in a bed like that, even if they’re different scenarios.

But if you start paying more attention to what you do with your ankle the other 23 hours of the day (yes, while sleeping too), and start noticing you have one or both of them in the position you’ve been trying to avoid, you’ve found yourself some likely assistance to getting over, or at least helping prevent, the problem.

Whatever you do on a regular basis…is what you do on a regular basis. If you turn your ankle(s) a lot…you turn your ankle(s) a lot.

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