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Ankle Injuries in Basketball

The ankle is made up of 3 main bones; the lower end of the tibia, or shinbone, and the fibula, or outer bone of the ankle, and the talus that lies between the tibia and the fibula. Holding these structures together are the ankle ligaments that connect one bone to another. Holding the shinbone to the talus bone on the inside of the ankle is a very strong tissue called the deltoid ligament. On the outside of the ankle are 2 smaller ligaments holding the fibula to the talus bone, and 1 ligament from the talus to the calcaneus. Also not to be forgotten are the muscles that surround the ankle that help propel it and allow athletes to run and jump.

The ankle is made up of 3 main bones; the lower end of the tibia, or shinbone, and the fibula, or outer bone of the ankle, and the talus that lies between the tibia and the fibula. Holding these structures together are the ankle ligaments that connect one bone to another. Holding the shinbone to the talus bone on the inside of the ankle is a very strong tissue called the deltoid ligament. On the outside of the ankle are 2 smaller ligaments holding the fibula to the talus bone, and 1 ligament from the talus to the calcaneus or heel bone. Also not to be forgotten are the muscles that surround the ankle that help propel it and allow athletes to run and jump.

Ankle injuries are some of the most common afflictions in sports. According to observations and statistical data from the American College of Sports Medicine, of the 25,000 Americans who suffer from an ankle sprain each day, half of them occur during athletic activity. And more than 40% of that figure, get injured while playing basketball.

The ankle joint has been found to account for more than 35% of all sports-related injuries, with lateral ankle sprain comprising about 80% of these injuries. The rate of a lateral sprain re-injury in basketball is also noteworthy at more than 70%. All these numbers may be underestimated because approximately 50% of those sustaining an ankle sprain do not seek medical attention after the injury.

As a basketball athlete is really important to know about the risk factors that lead to injuries, pain and disability. To learn about how to be always mentally and physically ready to prevent an injury should be part of any basketball training program. If an ankle injury happens, because they always do, a good diagnosis must be made by a physician and the proper treatment must be followed to avoid complications, or a possible re-injury.

The ligaments of the ankle undergo a tremendous amount of stress during basketball maneuvers. The most common ankle injury in basketball is the sprain, which involves damage to ligaments when they are over stretched, or torn. An ankle stress fracture is the result of one or more broken bones. An ankle strain refers to damage to the muscles and tendons when they are stretched or pulled too far. Achilles tendinitis is the most common strain injury of the foot and ankle, and it may also happen while playing basketball. Kobe Bryant, of the Los Angeles Lakers, had a season ending injury when he tore his left Achilles tendon during a 2012-13 season game against the Golden State Warriors. “I made a move I’ve made a million times and it popped”, Kobe said afterwards.

So what are the factors then that contribute to an ankle injury? Is it just bad luck? Like when landing awkwardly after a jump, or landing on somebody else’s foot causing sudden and severe pain. Or, is it because we are just naturally prone to get injured? It is part of our nature to feel the swelling and bruising, together with the inability to walk or bear any weight on an injured foot? It may be all of the above, but the truth is that our body wears out over time; and we need to be conscious of the risks of getting injured to be precarious.

Prevent an Ankle Injury.

There are however, certain recommendations you can follow to reduce the possibility of getting your ankle injured:

  •  Never play if you feel tired, or in pain.
  • Warm up and stretch very well before and after training.
  • Maintain the optimal weight, strength and conditioning levels.
  • Eat and drink a nutritious and well-balanced diet.
  • Hydrate constantly during trainings.
  • Wear comfortable and adequate shoes.
  • Stay Focus to prevent any injury. 

What to do after an ankle injury?

An ankle injury could be mild, moderate or severe. You should always receive medical evaluation to properly diagnose the required treatment and estimate the time for full recovery. In any case, you should always apply R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) to the injured area.

REST. To allow a complete recovery in the least amount of time, it’s very important to stop doing any physical activity with the injured foot and keep weight off of it until fully recovered.

ICE. Ice will help reduce the swelling and will ease the pain. Apply ice within 24 hours of an injury for periods of 15-20 minutes and repeat after an hour as needed.

COMPRESSION. Wrap the injured ankle with an elastic bandage to keep it immobile and supported. But don’t wrap too tight.

ELEVATION. Elevate your injured foot to the level of your heart to help reduce the swelling and pain.

Usually, following the RICE treatment, it will take about one week for the swelling to go down. Then, a period of one to two weeks of therapy is needed to restore strength and flexibility of the ankle. It can take a couple of more weeks or even months to eventually return to your normal training activities while you continue to exercise. Ignored, or not properly treated injuries can lead to long-term chronic issues with the ankle, such as repeated injury, weakness and disability.

Ankle Strength and Conditioning

As part of the Injury Prevention System for the ankle, and to progressively restore ankle stability and function after an injury, exercising the ankles in these areas is highly recommended:

  1.  Flexibility Exercises to improve range of motion.
  2. Proprioception Exercises to improve balance.
  3. Progressive Strength Exercises to improve strength.
  4. Progressive Endurance Exercises to improve conditioning.
  5. Plyometric Exercises to improve agility.

Running has always been an excellent exercise to strengthen not only your ankles, but your whole body. I really encourage you to get your adidas Supernova Glide Boost Running Shoes and start running on a regular basis; besides, running is absolutely required when playing basketball.

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