The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

3 Important NY Podiatrist Tips and Tricks to Prevent Water-Skiing Ankle Injuries this Summer

Posted by on Tuesday, June 17th, 2014


Water-skiing is a challenging sport that is much harder on the body than it looks. Pros like Chris Parrish make it look easy, but hundreds of people head to hospital emergency rooms with injury each year. Occasionally, you will encounter a very sad story, like the death of Australian Sarah Teelow from a spinal cord injury last year; but, for the most part, ankle injuries dominate the sport. New York podiatrists from The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine examine some of the most common injuries and how to prevent them.

ankle injuries waterskiing
Water skiers make the sport look easy, but ankle injuries abound.
Image Source: H2oskiep via Wikimedia Commons

Most Common Ankle Injuries in Water-Skiing

According to Water Ski Magthe four most common ankle injuries include:

1. Ankle Sprains – Representing 36.3% of all water-skiing injuries, sprains occur when the foot turns to the inside, stretching or tearing the ankle ligaments. The most serious sprains involve the deltoid ligaments on the inside of the ankle or the anterior tibiofibular ligament between the shin bones. Thankfully, these injuries can be treated without an operation by wrapping, casting, or wearing a walking boot to keep the weight off the injury.

diagram on how to wrap ankle sprain
Here you can see the proper way to wrap a sprain.

2. Talus Fractures – These fractures are very similar to a bad ankle sprain at first, with pain, bruising, and swelling. A CT scan or MRI is helpful in diagnosing a fracture in the bone tip, since it can be so subtle even X-rays miss it. Surgery is usually needed to repair the injury.

3. Achilles Tendon Ruptures – For this injury, skiers say when they kick off their skis during a crash, they hear a “pop” sound. To determine the severity of the injury, we may ask you to lie on your side and bend your knee at a 90-degree angle. We gently squeeze your calf muscle to see if the foot moves upward, which would indicate that the tendon is at least partially intact. Surgery is then typically performed to repair the tendon. You can expect a lengthy recovery that could take up to a year.

4. Ankle Fractures – Ankle fractures occur when the foot falls inward and the ski rotates to the outside. Unstable fractures may need to be internally fixed with screws and plates, but it’s more likely you’ll wear a boot or cast instead.

 How to Prevent Water-Skiing Ankle Injuries

– Consider binding setup. The Reflex binding setup, with rear toe plate back, is widely considered the safest type of release for most spills. Pro skier Whitney McClintock adds that the Radar setup is good for people who “crash a lot going through the wakes.” Other pros like Adam Sedlmajer prefer to ride on Goode hardshell bindings, particularly the double hardshell.

Strengthen your ankles off the water. Single leg calf raises, single leg squats, single leg step-ups, and seated calf raises are good exercises for proprioception (the art of improving your mind-body awareness). You want to be in-tune with what your ankles are doing at all times. Bosu balls and Indo Boards are also great for improving stability on land that’ll translate to the water.

– When injured, rehabilitate appropriately. The first steps you take following an injury are the most important. You’ll want to rest, ice, compress, and elevate immediately. Ice 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off as often as you can in the 24 hours following injury if you want to cut back on recovery time by a couple weeks. Some water skiers use homeopathic medicine like Traumeel or Arnica. Using advanced therapies, like ultrasound waves, can reduce the amount of scar tissue that forms. You want to make sure you are capable of a full range of motion before you get back on your water skis. Count on two to six weeks for a full recovery from ankle injury.

ankle strengthening
Bosu balls are great for building coordination, stability, and single-leg strength.
Image Source: via Wikimedia Commons

NY Podiatrist Specializing in Water Sports Ankle Injuries

The Center for Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine has offices in Westchester and Manhattan that specialize in every type of ankle injury commonly suffered by water skiers and other water sports enthusiasts. Our goal is to eliminate your acute pain and then set to work getting you back in the water as quickly as possible. Our approach is one of “active recovery” because we understand that, for some, “take it easy” just isn’t an option. We also believe that an active recovery will help you regain strength, range of motion, and coordination much more quickly. Book your appointment online today.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.