Ankle sprains: a runner’s rehab checklist

Ankle sprains: a runner’s rehab checklist – Enduring Injury

a runner’s ankles are vulnerable to sprains in part because the ankles are required to withstand the same force as hips and knees, but these latter joints have about four and a half times more contact area over which to distribute it.

When that inevitable ankle sprain occurs, the road to recovery begins with knowing the importance of proper rehabilitation. Without rest, followed by gradual movement and then strengthening exercise, odds are you’ll injure your ankle again, and maybe worse. More severe sprains can require seven to ten days in a cast, followed by four to six weeks in an ankle stirrup. Whatever the degree of sprain, however, a period of immobilization is essential, and skipping rehab steps will spell disaster.

So when are you ready to hit the road? The following guide may help. This is not a substitute for regular doctor’s visits, of course; follow your therapist’s prescribed exercise plan carefully and let him/her know if you’re feeling pain in any healing stage. Still, you may find it useful to check off each statement as it becomes true, moving through the four phases of rehab until you’re ready to run again:

Phase One: Ready to Start Rehab

* I am wearing the brace or wrap my doctor prescribed.

* I can stand on the injured leg without pain.

* Pain and swelling have gone down.

Phase Two: Beginning

* I can draw the letters of the alphabet in the air with my toes.

* My calf and ankle muscle strength is back to normal.

* My doctor has helped me recognize when I need a brace and I know how to apply it.

* Low-impact aerobic exercise and weightlifting do not cause pain/swelling.

Phase Three: Intermediate

* My balance when standing on the injured leg is as good as when standing on my uninjured leg.

* Increased low-impact exercise does not cause pain/swelling.

* My general strength is back to pre-injury level.

Phase Four: Advanced

* I am incorporating short and easy runs without pain/limitation.

* I can cut, turn and pivot without pain/limitation.

* I’ve discussed my special needs with my doctor as I gradually return to pre-injury mileage and intensity, and I’m aware of my long-term needs to prevent future injury.

Finally, it’s advisable to keep track of how many days each phase of your healing took, and then calculate and keep a record of your total days spent recovering from the injury.

(Phys. Sportsmed., 2002, Vol. 30, No. 12, pp. 39-40; Biomechanics, 2003, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp. 51-61)

COPYRIGHT 2004 American Running & Fitness Association

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group