Hands down, the most common injury in cheer is the ankle sprain. It’s no secret that cheerleaders have terrible shoes. Couple that with the fact that most of our sport is done on unstable surfaces (spring floor, rod floor, tramp and tumble tracks) and we now have the perfect storm for an ankle sprain.
Let’s talk about what a “sprain” actually is. There are two similar sounding injuries that occur in our bodies when body parts are taken too far. These are “strains and sprains”. The term strain is used with muscles and tendons and the term sprain is used when a ligament is loaded beyond its ability. Sprains in the ankle are graded as a 1, 2, or 3 depending on the level of tissue damage.
Knowing that we have two somewhat unchangeable factors (shoes and floor) that are the culprits for most ankle sprains, the way we can best approach the epidemic of ankle sprains is to focus on prevention. The way we can prevent ankle sprains is to increase the strength of the muscles around the lower leg that control the positioning of the foot.
If we are to implement a strategy to prevent ankle sprains, it must be something that is done on a regular basis and is approached with the mentality that it is of the utmost importance. Coaches, developing an ankle “prehab” protocol is not difficult and can be a fun activity to do during practice warmups.
Three things that can be added to help with ankle stability are:
1. Toe walks and heel walks the full length of the floor
2. Single leg hops left and right
3. Single leg balance with toe taps (video below)
Adding activities like these on a daily basis can dramatically decrease the number of ankle sprains and reduce the stress of having to change a routine or miss competition because of injuries.