Three Things Gymnasts Need To Know About Ankle Instability

Ankle sprains are a common sports injury, as they make up more than 40% of all sports injuries. If you've sprained your ankle numerous times in your gymnastics career, you could develop a more serious injury, ankle instability. Here are three things gymnasts need to know about ankle instability.

How does ankle instability occur?

When you sprain your ankle, the ligaments within your ankle get stretched or torn. This can happen if you twist your ankle during a dismount or if you fall off an apparatus and land on your ankle. Once you've suffered an ankle sprain, the damage to the ligaments puts you at risk of spraining your ankle again. Continuing to sprain your ankle will further damage your ligaments, and, eventually, your frequently-injured ankle will become unstable.

What are the signs of ankle instability?

If you develop ankle instability, you may feel a chronic, aching pain on the outside of your ankle while you're in the gym. This pain may also bother you outside of practice, such as when you're walking.

You may feel like your ankle isn't stable enough to support your weight, and you may fall during practice. Your ankle may collapse beneath you in the gym or even when you're doing normal activities like standing or walking. Some people also notice a grinding sensation inside their injured ankle.

Can ankle instability be managed?

Ankle instability can be treated with rehabilitation exercises. These exercises, which include muscle strengthening exercises, aim to help you regain proper function in your ankle joint.

If rehabilitation isn't enough, surgery may be performed. During surgery, scar tissue can be removed from your injured ligaments, and torn ligaments can be sewn back together. After surgery, you may need to wear a cast for six to seven weeks and an ankle brace for another three months, says Podiatry Today, so prepare to miss the rest of the season if you need surgery.

After your treatment, you may need to work with your physiotherapist to regain your balance ability so that you can compete on the floor and balance beam again. A balance board or a trampoline can be used to help you train your balance, and, once your balance improves, gymnastics-specific balance exercises like plyometrics may be used.

If you've sprained your ankle during gymnastics practice, head to an urgent care clinic or to your family doctor instead of trying to work through the pain.