5 Risk Factors for Ankle Sprains
Stephen Pinney, MD
An ankle sprain or “rolling your ankle” is one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries. However, not every person has an equal risk of spraining her ankle. Are you more likely than the next person to suffer an ankle sprain? Here are five risk factors:
1. A history of ankle sprains
If you have sprained your ankle many times in the past you are likely to sprain it again in the future. Often these individuals will have a combination of the other risk factors. They may have developed chronic ankle instability due to stretching out of the injured ligaments.
2. Participation in high-risk sports
Certain sports predispose to ankle sprains more than others. Basketball and volleyball players who often land awkwardly on someone’s foot after jumping have an increased risk of injury. Similarly, soccer and tennis players who regularly have to change directions quickly also commonly suffer ankle sprains.
3. Loose joints
Are you “loose-jointed”? In medicine, this is called “ligamentous laxity.” Can you hyperextend your elbows? Can you touch your thumb to your forearm? Can you bend a finger so that it makes a 90° angle with the back of your hand? If you can, you have looser ligaments and are at a higher risk of spraining your ankle.
4. A high arched foot
People with higher arched feet can usually roll their foot inwards more than they can outwards. This makes it more likely that they will sprain their ankle.
5. Weak muscles
When your ankle rolls inwards, often the last thing that prevents it from going further and tearing the ligaments is a strong contraction from the muscles on the side of the leg that supports the ankle. If these muscles are weak or do not react in time, an ankle sprain will occur. Most people with weak muscles do not realize it; because the only time they need this strength is when the ankle is in a “high-risk” position for spraining. Keeping these muscles strong can help minimize the risk of an ankle sprain.