What Sports Are Ankle Sprains Most Common In?

The ankle is one of the larger joints in your body, consisting of three bones, the tibia, fibula, and talus. These bones work together to allow for the up and down movement of your foot. The subtalar joint allows the ankle to move from side to side, and several ligaments surround the ankle and subtalar joints to make it all come together. Sprained ankles, damage to one of the ligaments in the ankle, are common in both athletes and nonathletes. If you step the wrong way or take a tumble, it’s possible to sprain your ankle.

What Are Common Symptoms of a Sprained Ankle?

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After twisting or turning your ankle, you may notice pain in the ankle joint. Symptoms of a sprained ankle include:

  • Pain, which can range from mild to severe.
  • An inability to bear weight on that side.
  • Swelling or inflammation.
  • Instability of your ankle.
  • Bruising.
  • Possible popping sound at the time of the injury.

How Do You Diagnose a Sprained Ankle?

When you experience ankle pain, it’s essential to rule out a possible fracture with your health care professional. A thorough physical examination, including imaging, will determine whether or not you have a sprained ankle. It can also help grade the severity of your sprain. There are three grades of ankle sprains:

  • Grade 1. Slight damage or stretching to the ligament fibers.
  • Grade 2. Partial tearing of the ligament. You may notice an abnormal looseness known as laxity in the ankle joint.
  • Grade 3. Complete tear of the ligament, resulting in gross instability of the ankle.

How Do You Treat a Sprained Ankle?

Depending on the severity of the sprain, your doctor may recommend several different treatments for an ankle sprain, including:

  • RICE. Rest the ankle, apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, wrap the ankle to apply compression, and elevate the ankle as much as possible.
  • Joint mobilization. These manual therapy techniques help treat joint dysfunctions and modulate the pain.
  • Strength training. Exercises designed to strengthen weak ankles will relieve pain, improve stability, and prevent further injury.
  • Taping. A common way to support your ankle to prevent further injury is taping the joint, especially during activity. This provides additional support to the joint.
  • Balance or proprioceptive training. These exercises aid your body with coordination and knowing where your limbs are in space to prevent further injury.
  • Soft tissue massage. Kneading and gently manipulating the muscles around the ankle can help alleviate pain and prevent scar tissue from forming.
  • Electrical therapy. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation can be used to reduce the swelling of an ankle sprain.
  • Gait training. You can build endurance, improve your posture and balance, develop muscle memory, retrain your legs for repetitive motions, and improve your ability to walk and stand through gait training.
  • Range of motion exercises. ROM exercises often start shortly after your injury to help you begin to regain strength in your ankle and reduce pain.
  • Activity modification. Your doctor may recommend that you modify your activity level or the type of activity you do while your ankle sprain heals to provide your ankle with rest.
  • Return to activity plan. Your health care provider will work with you to develop a plan to return to full activities once your ankle is healed.

An ankle sprain can result in long-term adverse effects, such as a decreased range of motion or increased instability without proper treatment.

What Sports Are Ankle Sprains Most Common In?

As you can imagine, participating in sports increases the risk of spraining your ankle. But, which sports are the most common culprits for causing ankle sprains?


The highest rate of ankle injuries occurs in basketball for both boys and girls. Basketball requires players to jump and land and twist and turn quickly. Dribbling down the court with a quick stop and pivot for a jump shot offers several opportunities for an ankle sprain to happen.

Girls’ Gymnastics

Tumbling across the floor mats, performing a routine on a balance beam, and dismounting from either uneven bars or horse also all lend nicely to ankle sprains. The most common injury to the ankle in gymnastics is a lateral ankle sprain by rolling the ankle over the outside of your foot.


Another sport that has players turning quickly while running down the field is soccer. Soccer players also risk ankle sprains when they plant their foot to bring the other one back to kick the ball. Soccer fields can also have uneven spots because it’s played on grass or turf. These dips and holes may cause players to twist their ankle when they step into it, causing a sprained ankle.


Football is a high-contact sport, offering opportunities for several different injuries, including ankle sprains. Players may get tripped up on the grass or turf, causing them to turn their ankles, resulting in a sprain. Injury to an ankle also may occur during a tackle where a player has a hold of another’s legs, causing them to twist awkwardly as the player is brought down.


Players diving after balls before they hit the court, jumping up to block a hit or take a hit, and running over the court to save the ball can all result in an ankle sprain. Volleyball players are on and off the ground a lot during play, and every time they jump up to hit or save the ball, they risk injury.

While these five sports are the most common for ankle sprains, it’s not an exhaustive list. Ankle sprains can happen during softball, baseball, lacrosse, swimming, or track and field. Cheerleaders, dancers, and marching band members have also been known to step or land wrong on their feet, causing an ankle sprain. As stated earlier, an ankle sprain can even happen to a nonathlete who just happens to stretch the ligament during their regular everyday activities.

If you’d like to learn more about ankle sprains, the treatment of ankle sprains, or would like to have your ankle injury examined, reach out to Dr. Schoene at Gurnee Podiatry & Sports Medicine Assoc. Dr. Schoene specializes in the treatment, prevention, and rehabilitation of foot and ankle injuries. You can reach a Gurnee team member at 847-263-6073 to schedule an appointment or use our convenient online messaging service and someone will get back to you.