You don't need to put on a yoga outfit to stretch. Stretching for just 10 minutes before and after you skate will stretch your skate prime. It has for me.
– Paul Rodriguez
When it comes to injuries, the ankle sprain is one of the classics. If you've skated longer than a few years and you haven't had an ankle sprain, well, there's one coming your way soon!
An ankle sprain is the result of twisting or turning your ankle past it's normal range of motion and stretching and/or tearing the ligaments. As a result your ankle swells up and if you're lucky, turns purple. The swelling is your body's natural way of protecting the injured area and an important part of the healing process. In the past the recommendations for most injuries were just to rest and let your body do it's thing, but it turns out that getting things moving as fast as possible (within the limits of pain) will not only get heal you up and get you back on your board faster, but reduce the amount of limiting factors that can come from a poorly rehabbed ankle - lack of range of motion, excessive losses in strength being some examples. Once that's done you need to work on restoring the range of motion, flexibility, balance and strength that you'll have lost with the sprain, and before you know it you'll be back on your plank.
There are 3 types of ankle sprains: an inversion sprain, where your foot rolls inwards (the most common), an eversion sprain, where your foot rolls outwards and a high ankle sprain where you damage the ligaments above the ankle.
I know you're probably not going to visit a doctor after spraining your ankle, but if you're in intense pain and you don't seem to be making any improvements you should seriously consider it.
Recovery time varies depending on how severe the sprain is. Ankle sprains are usually split into 3 grades:
grade 1: up to 2 weeks Slight stretching or tearing of ligament.
Symtoms: mild tenderness, swelling, stiffness and maybe light bruising. You can usually walk without much pain.
grade II: 2 - 6 weeks Larger tear of ligament.
Symtoms: moderate pain, swelling, stiffness and bruising. Walking is usually painful and damaged areas are sensitive to touch.
grade III: 7 - 12 weeks A complete tear of ligament or ligaments.
Symtoms: severe swelling and bruising. Walking is not usually possible as your ankle has intense pain and feels like it's going to collapse.
what do you need?
A sprained ankle
A fabric bandage/something similar to wrap around your ankle to apply pressure
Preferably one of those long elastic band things used for doing exercises but if you don't have one something similar like a towel/rope/skipping rope will do
If you sprain your ankle bad enough it's going to swell up pretty fast, but like we've already said, to speed up the healing we want to try and minimise the swelling as much as possible. The most common treatment to do this is one you've probably heard of before - the RICE method, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation.
There are 2 stages of rest when it comes to healing your sprain. Firstly, whilst it's nice and chubby you want to avoid putting pressure on it; go to bed, watch some old school 411s and stay off it. Once the swelling has gone/started to go down - which usually takes around 24 to 72 hours - you want to start getting active again, which we'll get to later.
This second stage of rest is all about not putting it through any stressful activities. Do the rehab exercises in the next section and put as much weight on it that feels right. If you don't feel comfortable putting any weight on it, use crutches, however, you want to try and get off using them as soon as you can.
The faster you can get ice to your ankle the better. If you can't go home straight away and you have to man it whilst your mate gets his trick, get to a shop, get some ice or a bag of peas and wrap it round the damaged part of your ankle. You can also stick your foot in a tub of ice cream if that's all they have.
You want to ice your ankle intermittently - 20 minute stints every hour is enough and you also want to make sure you're not putting the ice directly on your skin; wrap it in something like a towel or a t-shirt. These 2 tips are to stop frostbite so don't think keeping ice directly on your skin for an hour is helping. Do this for at least the first 24 to 72 hours, or until the swelling goes down. Ice is also a great painkiller so if you're in a lot of pain you can continue icing past this time.
The best thing you can do if you're out on the session is tie your shoelaces up tight, this will help to prevent extra swelling. However, if you're back home or you've managed to acquire some ice, take your shoe off, wrap it up tight using whatever you have - a bandage/t-shirt/shoelace and put the ice on top.
All you need to know here is that your ankle needs to be above your heart so prop it up on something compfy and make sure it's not blocking the corner of the tv.
If your ankle isn't absolutely written off you want to be already rehabbing it within the first 72 hours after the injury. Rehab is the most important part of the healing process and if you don't rehab it properly, not only will it not heal well, but you might wind up with recurring injuries in the future. The better you rehab it the stronger it will be.
Below is an exercise program for rebuilding the strength, flexibility, balance and range of motion of your ankle. You can start going through the exercises immediately but if you're still in a lot of pain it's best to wait for the swelling to go down a bit before trying again.
Remember, the healing of a sprained ankle is an active process, if you sit back doing nothing then you're not only going to heal slower but your ankle is going to be weak. But, at the same time, don't rush it, listen to your body and stop if you're in a lot of pain. It's all about balance...
toe pumps - 20 reps 5 times a day
Elevate your ankle off the ground and bend your foot back and forth; pumping your toes. When flexing towards your body curl your toes and when extending away, bend them down.
toe circles - 10 reps each direction 5 times a day
With your ankle in the same position make little circles with your foot. It's normal that this movement will cause more pain than the regular toe pumps because you're putting stress on the ligaments that normally receive the most damage with a sprain. If it hurts too much give it a rest and try again tomorrow.
Rotate both clockwise and anticlockwise.
alphabet toes - 2 reps 2 times a day
If you had trouble with the last exercise you're not going to be able to do this one so give it a miss until tomorrow as well. If you managed it, good shit, let's begin. For this exercise imagine your toes as the tip of a pen and trace each letter of the alphabet in the air. Make sure you're moving only your foot and not your whole leg.
seated Samuel - 20 reps 5 times a day
Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground and raise your heels as high as you can. One rep is complete when your feet are flat on the ground again.
Move on to stage II once the swelling has gone down and you can complete all exercises in stage I.
alphabet toes - 1 rep 5 times a day
dynamic seated Samuel -20 reps 5 times a day
This one is practically the same as the regular Seated Samuel but instead of just lifting your heel up and down you're going to be tracing semi circles with your heel. Start off with your toes in the same position but with your heel as far to the left as you can get it, now, with your toes on the ground the whole time lift your heel up as high as you can and move it as far to the right as you can. Now go from right to left and this is one rep complete.
foot press - 5 reps each side 5 times a day
For this one you need to push the side of your foot against something solid. The easiest thing to use is a chair with a crosspiece at the bottom, if you don't have one you can place your board next to the chair. Sit in the chair with the outside of your foot parallel to the crosspiece and now exert pressure against it. Hold each rep for 10 seconds. Repeat with the inside of the foot.
2 footed calf raise - 10 reps 5 times a day
This exercise is the same as the Seated Samuel except whilst standing: lift your heels up off the ground so you're just on the balls of your feet and then lower them back down.
The next 3 exercises are real bangers for strengthening your ankle again. For these you're going to need the elastic band/towel/skipping rope/something similar. Regarding the amount of reps that you do you want to just go with the flow, see how it feels and decide how many should do. You could start with 5 or even 20.
elastic upwards John - 5 times a day
So for this one you want to wrap the elastic around the ball of your foot and toes whilst holding each end. Start with your foot bent towards your body, now, against the resistance of the band, push your foot away. You want to be pulling the band tight enough so you feel resistance throughout the whole movement.
Do this exercise with your leg straight and flexed at the knee.
elastic downwards Gary - 5 times a day
This one is essentially the same as the last except you're going to be applying pressure in the opposite direction. Tie a little loop in one end of the band to put your foot in, the easiest way to do this exercise is to get someone to hold the other end of the band but if you've got no friends you can tie the one end to a table leg. Start with your foot pointed fully down and pull up towards your body. Again you want to feel resistance throughout the entire movement.
Do this exercise with your leg straight and flexed at the knee.
elastic sideways Susan - 5 times a day
This is the same as the last 2 except this time you're going to move your foot to the side. This one also usually hurts much more after a sprain than the forwards and backwards motion so don't push it and if it's hurting a lot, stop.
Keep the loop in the band from the last exercise tied and stick those toes right in there. Next, spread your legs about hip width apart and feed the band around your uninjured foot - so you've got a hinge like thing that allows you to push your foot to the side, against the resistance of the band. Now, starting with your injured foot pointing to the left you want to move it to the right and slightly up a bit, in almost a diagonal motion. Move it back to the left and that's one rep complete.
We now want to do the same thing but in the opposite direction, so, cross your uninjured leg over the injured one and wrap the band around your foot making that hinge on the other side. The starting position for this one is with your toes up and to the right, you then want to pull against the band to the side and down a little bit in a diagonal motion.
Your sprained ankle is going to get pretty stiff so you need to do some stretches along with the strengthening exercises to maintain flexibility and range of motion. The next 2 exercises are aimed at that.
calf stretches - 3 reps 20/30 seconds each
Stand with your uninjured foot about 30 cm in front of the injured one. Keep the whole of the injured foot in contact with the ground and shift your weight forwards over the uninjured foot. You should feel a pull on your calf muscle, once you get that nice stretching sensation and before you get a lot of pain hold the pose for 20-30 seconds. Release and that's one rep complete.
quad stretch - 3 reps 20/30 seconds each
This is just the classic quad stretch that everyone's done before except focusing more on stretching the ankle and foot rather than the quads. So raise your injured leg behind you and grab your foot, slowly pull your foot back until you feel a stretch across the foot, hold for 20-30 seconds.
This one will likely hurt a little bit so don't push it too much too fast.
Move on to stage III when you're able to walk with relatively no pain.
alphabet toes - 2 reps 5 times a day
all 4 elastic band exercises - 5 times a day
- You want to keep doing all of the same elastic band exercises from stage II but now increasing the reps, speed and resistance for each one.
calf and quad stretch - 4 reps 20/30 seconds each
- Repeat the same stretches from stage II but now pushing further into each stretch.
one foot William - 2 reps 30 seconds each 5 times a day
- For this one balance on only your injured foot for 30 seconds. This exercise is for restoring balance and strength in the ankle.
one foot blind William - 2 reps 30 seconds each 5 times a day
This one is exactly the same as the last except now with your eyes closed. This one's hard even when you don't have a sprained ankle.
one foot DHL delivery - 5 reps 5 times a day
For this one you need any random object; a pen, book, cucumber, your pet hamster, anything. Standing on just your injured foot, place the object on the ground and return to the upright starting position. This is 1 rep. Place the object in a slightly different spot each time and start off with something that doesn't move before progressing to the hamster.
what's the time Sir? - 2 reps 5 times a day
- For this one you need to tap into that crucial skateboarding tool: visualisation. Balance on your injured foot and visualise a clock drawn on the floor in a circle around you, work around the clock touching each hour with your toes. Return to the centre before moving to the next hour. One journey around the clock is one rep.
one footed calf raise - 10 reps 5 times a day
Stand on 1 foot and raise your heel off the ground so you're just on the ball of your foot, try and rise up as high as you can and then lower yourself back down. If this is too easy stand with the balls of your feet on the edge of a step and hang your heel off the back, lower your heels down as far a they go and start from this position instead, giving you a larger range of motion.
To increase the intensity of these exercises you can add more reps, increase the speed or increase the resistance on the exercises that involve resistance. By the end of your rehab program you should be almost working your muscles into a fatigued state.
By now you should be able to cruise around again. When you actually get back into skating you need to continue treating your ankle with that rehab frame of mind. Don't just go straight into skating stairs the first session back, start off skating some tranny or flatground and build it up each day.
Keep doing the exercises you feel are still helping and keep increasing the reps and speed.