Cheerleading and Ankle Sprains

“They go together like lamb and tunafish“…or spaghetti and meatballs if you’re more comfortable with that analogy.  It is well known that the ankle is the MOST COMMON INJURY IN CHEERLEADING.  It accounts for the majority of reasons that cheerleaders are left on the side watching their squad (or on the floor suffering and not enjoying the sport that that they were born to do).  There are many factors that can lead to an ankle sprain.  It could be something from as far up as the hip and glutes…all the way down to a big toe that doesn’t move well.

Calves and Ankles

The calves are a set of two (3 for a small population) of muscles that lie in the back of the lower leg.  The primary role of the calves is to point the toe (plantarflexion).  The reason there are two is a simple concept when you see it, but may take a little brain power to visualize.  If you point your toes with your knee bent, that is primarily controlled by one muscle (gastrocnemius).  However, if you point your toes with your knee bent, another muscle controls that (soleus).  There are some other muscles in the lower leg that control side to side movement of the lower leg and they play a HUGE role in stability of the ankle.  If the calf is very tight, it limits the range of motion and ability of the foot to point and flex.  If that is the case, it is likely that we will start to have an increase in movement side to side to make up for the loss of movement.  Uncontrolled side to side movement is EXACTLY how ankle sprains happen.

Fixing the calves

If you have tight calves or spend a lot of time with the toes pointed (like tumbling and jumping), there is a great tool that can help fix that.  The foam roller is a tool that can be utilized to help relax tight and tender muscles.  When rolling on the calves, we want to focus on the belly of the calves (muscular part) and avoid the achilles tendons and directly behind the knee.  You can roll both at the same time, stack the legs on top of one another, and even lift your seat off the floor to increase the load on the calves.  Look for areas that feel tender or for “knots” and stay on them until the discomfort lessens.  Make sure to avoid any numbness or tingling as well.  Check out the video for a demo on rolling your calves!