The ankle sprain is a common injury in all sports. For martial artists , it is commonly acquired while sparring or during calisthenics. A sprain indicates that there are small tears in the ligaments surrounding the ankle wall. Usually the sprain comes from ‘rolling the ankle’ or causing the ankle to invert (inward roll). Because this type of injury is so common, it is important to strengthen the ankle regularly. This could prevent a sprain or an ankle roll from occurring at the grade II or III level (see below). The lack of supportive footwear in martial arts training places the martial artist’s ankle in a susceptible position.
The ankle sprain is easy to identify following an ankle roll. When the ankle has suffered a sprain it is important to note that there are three different grades of severity. All sprain will have swelling surrounding the ankle bone (lateral malleolus), some discoloration and loss of function. However, Mrs. Lynn Grossman points out that the amount of swelling and discoloration is not directly related to the severity of sprain.
GRADE I: Microscopic tears to one or more ligaments, with possible swelling and soreness is present. An individual with a grade I sprain may be able to handle a weight bearing stance.
GRADE II: Macroscopic tears to one or more ligaments is present. Swelling and discoloration may be present to the outside of the foot, toes or lower leg. The athlete may have difficulty walking – crutches may be needed.
GRADE III: There is a complete ligament rupture at this level of severity. It is important to note that although there are three major ligaments possibly involved, each ligament could have their own grade of severity. With a grade III sprain, there is complete loss of function. However, the nerve endings are often ruptured which can prevent severe pain from being felt. Instability on the other hand will be present. The athlete will usually hear or feel one or more “pops” or “snaps.”
Rest, ice, compression and elevation is the best form of treatment. Also seek the care of a physician so that the grade of sprain can be determined and the proper therapy can be prescribed.
STRENGTHENING AND PREVENTION
• Basic calf raises are useful for strengthening lower leg musculature and the ankle wall. These can also be done on a single leg.
• The use of a rocker or wobble board is one of the most useful tools for martial artists (see photos). This inexpensive piece of equipment ( from $50.00 – $100.00) can fit in any closet.
Here are some exercises for both the ankle and knee.