If you can feel the excitement in the air, there’s a good chance it’s college basketball-related. Some of the conference tournaments for the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Division I basketball teams are tipping off in just a couple of days, and it won’t be much longer after before all of them are underway.
Once the conference tournaments are all wrapped up—which happens by 3/11—it’s Selection Sunday, the day when the NCAA selection committee finalizes their decisions as to which teams are in the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Division I Basketball Tournaments and what their respective seedings will be for the tournament.
And then the “madness” begins!
For many sports fans, this is one of the best times of the year. There are so many upsets and so many memorable moments – which is understandable with the total of 67 action-filled games throughout the tournament. Of course, it also means there are bound to be some injuries on the courts.
Feet and ankles are particularly at risk for injury during basketball games (and practices). Actually, the sport doesn’t matter much – there are just numerous foot and ankle sports injuries in general!
In particular, ankle sprains are something almost any athlete (and even nonathletes!) will have to deal with at one point or another. In spite of their commonality, it is important to know about these injuries so you avoid a potential complication – chronic ankle instability.
Your ankle joints—we pluralize that because there’s actually two of them – the subtalar and “true” ankle joints—are held together with ligaments, as is the case with joints.
Those ligaments responsible for holding everything in place have a certain range of motion. This is necessary for keeping your ankle from undergoing abnormal, unintended movements. When your foot twists excessively on a horizontal plane (side-to-side, in other words), those ligaments overstretch and even tear.
As can be reasonably expected, the severity of the injury will typically dictate what kind of treatment is most effective for an ankle sprain.
- Grade 1 ankle sprain—the result of slight stretching and damage to ligament fibers—is typically treated with RICE therapy (rest, ice, compression, and elevation).
- Grade 2 ankle sprain—partial tearing of the ligament—will also use RICE therapy in the initial wave of treatment, but can also benefit from the use of an air splint to immobilize the injury.
- Grade 3 ankle sprain—complete tear of the ligament—may require a cast or cast-brace for a couple of weeks.
Regardless as to the specific grade, there are three distinct phases of recovering from the injury. Phase 1 is centered on protecting the ankle and resting to reduce swelling. Phase 2 is a matter of restoration for your strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Phase 3 entails a gradual return to certain physical activity and maintenance exercises before progressing to more involved activities.
Now that you know all about ankle sprains, let’s look at chronic instability.
Well, chronic ankle instability is a condition wherein a previously-injured ankle feels unstable and wobbly. An affected ankle may give way often, or even lead to recurring ankle sprains. Tenderness, persistent swelling, and discomfort are other symptoms. Given that instability issues will continue when left untreated, it’s best to take appropriate measures to resolve the problem.
Before we look at treatment options, you need to understand that you can prevent this chronic condition from developing in the first place. Instead of trying to “walk it off” and get back into the game (or your preferred physical activity), call it a day and initiate the RICE protocol.
The “rest” part of RICE is especially important in this case.
Ligaments become weakened when sprained, and they simply need time to heal. If you go back to physical activities too quickly following an ankle sprain, the ligaments can sustain further damage. This can lead to a more permanent weakness in these essential connective tissues.
In addition to the first aid you perform with RICE therapy, some other ways to protect your ankle and avoid a chronic condition include:
Wear braces for activities – Strenuous activities can be too much for a loose joint. Wearing an ankle brace that allows you to move appropriately will protect your joint from “giving out.” Depending on your case, we might prescribe a brace as part of your treatment plan.
Wearing proper shoes – Always pick activity-appropriate shoes that fit properly. Lace your shoes up tightly to protect your ankles during physical activities. If you play basketball, your footwear should offer ample ankle support.
Strengthening exercises – Stronger muscles provide greater support and stability, so incorporate appropriate strength training activities in your workout program. Not sure which ones? Check with our office and we can provide recommendations!
Stretching exercises – Keep the ligaments in your ankle joints limber by following a regular stretching regimen. This enables your connective tissues to have the greatest possible range of motion, which means fewer sprains. As with strengthening exercises, we can give you professional recommendations if you need guidance.
When you do become hurt, especially with an ankle sprain, it is important to have the injury diagnosed and treated properly by one of our doctors at McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group. We have vast experience in treating ankle injuries and will let you know when it is safe to resume your normal activities.Call our Sacramento podiatrist office at (916) 961-3434 or use our online form to connect with us and get started on finding the pain relief you need!