Maybe you had the same feelings of sadness as I did when I was watching the 2008 U.S. Olympic gymnastic team prepare for their preliminary subdivisions Sunday evening. Gymnast Samantha Peszek rolled over her ankle during her warm-up routine minutes before the competition began and was forced out of every competition except for the uneven parallel bars. She is still able to perform in the uneven bar events because they don’t require the constant ankle pounding that the other events do.
But Peszek isn’t the first female gymnast to be sidelined due to ankle problems. Teammate, Chellsie Memmel, is also out due to a injured ankle and she, like Samantha, will only wow audiences with her uneven bar routine over the coming days.
I believe that there is a lesson in everything, for all of us, even if we remain untouched by someone else’s pain. Granted, most of us aren’t training for the Olympics, but if you love to workout and consider exercise to be an integral part of your mental and physical health, then safeguarding yourself against an ankle injury, like those experienced by these two young athletes, is a lesson well learned. Whether you’re a runner, cyclist, walker, tennis or basketball player, here are a few tips to protect your ankle against an injury:
1) Wear the Proper Footwear. Whatever your sport of choice is, it is necessary that you invest in the appropriate shoes for that specific sport. Even walking and running should require two different sets of shoes. Talk to a personal trainer or a knowledgeable sales person when you go to buy your athletic shoes. Let them know about any previous injuries you have had so that they can recommend the best shoe for you.
2) Exercise on Appropriate Surfaces. Whether you are jogging or downward-dogging, exercising on the appropriate surfaces will ensure greater ankle stability and will decrease your chances of spraining your ankle. Invest in a quality yoga mat, if you are a yoga practitioner, run on a treadmill if you’re a runner, and avoid playing basketball on cracked and uneven courts. The quality of the surface that you are pounding your feet and ankles on will influence how much shock your body absorbs and how well your legs are supported.
3) Use support only when needed. Wearing an ankle brace to prevent an injury, if you have never had an ankle injury is a precautionary practice that should be avoided, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. This team of experts recommend only wearing a protective support band if you are recovering from an injury or if you are prone to recurrent ankle injuries. With a few small steps, you can save yourself from not only an ankle sprain, but from fractures, peroneal tendon injuries and chronic ankle instability.