Ankle injuries (mostly sprains) are the most common basketball injury and can range from a "tweak" that you walk off to a career ending event.
Take a look at this clip a few times and then read on for a few things to learn from it.
- While guards and wings like to "break ankles" with a good crossover driblle during transition or on the perimeter, most ankle injuries occur in the paint, where people are jumping and landing while going for rebounds, blocked shots, etc.
- The vast majority (about 85%) of ankle sprains occur when you land awkwardly or on top of someone else's foot and roll your foot over the outside border. This inversion injury can stretch or tear ligaments (tissue that joins bone to bone) and cause significant pain. In this instance, the player lands on someone else's foot and suffers an inversion sprain.
- Immediate management of the injury includes getting off the floor to be evaluated. If you hear a pop, roll your ankle the other way (eversion), or can't walk or bear weight on the ankle, it's probably a more serious injury. If an athletic trainer, physical therapist or physician is present, they can assess the tenderness and stability of the ankle ligaments by performing a series of maneuvers. You can see some of this on the video.
This should be done quickly, because as soon as any swelling starts, it will become more difficult to figure out any specific tender points (because the entire side of the ankle will be tender!)
- Whether you're in a pickup game or in the middle of the NBA Finals, you should take immediate steps to keep the ankle from swelling (too much). This means starting the R.I.C.E program that includes Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. In the video, you can see this player (Kristen Rasmussen of the Adelaide Lightning) limping off the court while her foot is in a compression boot.
- Another important point is that once you sprain your ankle, you become 5 times more likely to sustain another injury to that same ankle. I'm guessing that "Raz" had previously sprained her ankle(s) as she can be seen to be wearing black ankle supports under her basketball shoes (more about this in a future post).
The good news is that ankle injuries, when treated appropriately, can be overcome. Ms. Rasmussen was able to return later in the season and she's currently playing for the WNBA's Connecticut Sun.
In a future blog post, I'll go over some of the important, but often overlooked, parts of a good rehabilitation program designed to not only return an injured basketball player to competition but to decrease his or her risk of further injury.