Secrets To Avoid or Rehabilitate Ankle Injuries In Gymnastics
Ankle Injury: No Stranger in our Sport
Due to the over abundance of jumping, flipping and dismounting, ankle injuries are definitely not a stranger in the sport of gymnastics. It is for this reason that it is important to make sure that gymnasts spend ample amounts of conditioning time training the ankle and surrounding leg muscles to absorb more than your normal impacts of most sports to avoid ankle sprains and ligament tears. Even with this training, ankle injuries and the need for rehabilitation of those injuries is common.
Common Symptoms of Ankle Sprains
Ankle Sprains are classified into grades 1, 2, & 3, which generally correspond to mild, moderate and severe. Obviously, more severe sprains, including ligament tears and bone fractures will require more extensive treatment than just rehabilitation therapy, however, getting the ankle back into shape for most ankle injuries require much of the same strengthening activities once the injury has healed.
The most common symptoms of an ankle sprain are pain and swelling. Often times, athletes will notice bruising over the injured area also. In the days following the injury and as gravity begins to pull the blood downwards, the bruising will move down the foot towards the toes.
Prevention is the key to making the most out of your gymnastics and avoiding many common ankle injuries. This include a combination of both stretching and strengthening activities.
- Achilles Stretch: While seated or lying down, take a towel and wrap it around your foot. Gently pull back on the ends of the towel while pulling your toes upwards. You should feel a gentle stretch in the back of the ankle. Perform this 3-4 times before each gymnastics workout.
2. Towel Curls: Begin with your foot flat on the floor. While keeping the heal on the floor, begin to scrunch up the towel with your toes. Each time you curl your toes it is counted as one repetition. Perform 3 sets of 20 repetitions before each gymnastics workout.
3. Dorsiflexion: Holding a theraband, place toe in loop of band. Begin by flexing the foot and pulling the toes upward. Relax the foot and repeat the exercise. Each flexion is one repetition. Do 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions before each gymnastics workout.
4. Toe Raises: Stand on a stair or ledge with your heel over the edge. Stand up on your tip toes, then in a controlled manner, let the heel rest down. Do 4 sets of 20 reps daily.
5. Heel Toe Walking: Walk on your toes for one minute, then on your heels for one minute. Work up to 10 minutes of alternating walks daily.
Use Common Sense
Obviously, if the athlete is injured already, they should let pain be their indicator through the entire process of getting back into their normal activity. Once these activities can be performed in full without pain, then the athlete can resume their activity provided they have been released by their doctor.
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A Side Note
Keep in mind that an athlete that is experiencing severe swelling, moderate to severe pain, can't walk or put weight on the affected foot or ankle, or heard a popping sound at the time of injury should always seek the advice of a doctor before beginning any kind of injury rehabilitation program.
Remember the first 24-48 hours of an injury is the most crucial time. Do not begin any activity until you can walk with a normal gait. For the first 48 hours post injury, use an ice pack and elevation above the heart for treatment. Also wrap the area with an ace wrap in a manner that is snug, but not cutting off the circulation to the ankle and foot.
Additionally, once an athlete is released for rehabilitation or regular activity, seek the help of a qualified coach or trainer for a more specific rehabilitation program and proper supervision.