The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Resuming Training Following an Ankle Sprain: 3 Steps for Safely Increasing Mobility

Posted by on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014


Every day, 23,000 Americans sprain their ankles. Seventy-two percent of these people will suffer from arthritis in the ankle within 10 years. Many more people will suffer a disability and chronic pain. Though the cost of treating sprained ankles exceeds $1.1 billion a year, we feel many of these people are not being treated properly. Re-injury is a common problem for people who have hurt their ankles in the past. Following these three steps (under the guidance of a sports medicine doctor, of course!) will decrease your risk of suffering long-term consequences associated with ankle sprain injury.

ankle sprain
No matter the severity of your ankle sprain, you can take these three steps to get back into the game again.
Image Source:

Step 1: Take It Easy with Non-Weight-Bearing Activity.

For at least the first five days, you want to protect the ligaments and tissues as best you can. At minimum, you’ll need to wear a compression wrap with a U-shaped felt balance around the outer ankle that is changed every four hours. Depending on the injury, you may need to wear a lace-up, stirrup, or elastic ankle brace. The use of orthotics has been associated with better ankle stability and a decrease in fatigue following injury.

Swelling can be controlled by cryotherapy, icing, and range of motion exercises. At this point, you may be able to ride a stationary bike for 15 minutes per day and use an ankle rocker-board to perform 30 circles, clockwise and counter-clockwise, twice a day. Writing out the alphabet with the tips of your toes can help with range of motion, as well.

Step 2: Use Functional Rehab to Improve Coordination.

Functional rehab may include:

– Balance board workouts

– Progressive strength-training with light weights

– Strengthening tendons using exercise bands

Coordination activities

– Achilles tendon stretching

You can begin stretching your Achilles tendon within 48 to 72 hours after injury. Strengthening may begin when swelling and range of motion are controlled, without pain. Single leg heel raises, double leg heel raises, closed-eye balancing, single-leg rocker board balancing, foam pad balancing, mini-trampoline jumps, and plyometrics may be recommended for your recovery. Aim for the application of resistance for three to five seconds, up to 10 or 12 repetitions, per set. Two to three sets may be done each day, moving the foot in each direction.

baseball and mitt
The last phase of ankle recovery involves skill building and practicing your sport of choice again.
Image source: Stephen Nakatani

Step 3: Train for Your Sport to Return Back to Competition.

The first real workout most patients do is comprised of 50% walking, 50% running. Backward and figure-8 running patterns can help as well. You can work with a sports medicine doctor to resume sport-specific activities to keep your skills sharp, whether it be basketball, soccer, tennis, or running. The goal of a sports medicine professional is to get you back in the saddle as quickly as possible.

You’ll be able to return to competition once:

– You have full range of motion up-and-down, side-to-side.

– You have near-normal strength in all supportive ankle muscles.

– You have good balance.

– You have no pain or swelling with exercise.

Ankle Sprain Recovery in New York

If you’ve recently injured your ankle, your best bet is to find a sports medicine doctor who can guide you through a customized recovery plan. The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in Manhattan and Westchester offers you the very best treatment possible, with physical therapy regimens, cryotherapy, custom orthotic molding, stem cell and cortisone injections, shockwave therapy, and surgical interventions. Our goal is to come up with the best plan to help you recover without risk of re-injury. Book an appointment online.


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.