The Sprained Ankle: A Common Basketball Injury

By Rhys Enticott



A common injury for basketballers (and many other athletes) is the sprained ankle. Whilst it may seem like a mild injury, often they can leave players with long lasting changes in flexibility, strength and balance which make them prone to re-do the injury or sustain a different injury in the future.(1) For these reasons it is worthwhile getting a sprain properly assessed and rehabilitated.

What is an ankle sprain?

The most common type of sprain involves damage to the ligaments on the outside (lateral) part of the ankle which occurs due to excessive inward twisting of the foot and ankle as well as often pointing the foot downwards. This can happen when changing direction, landing from a jump or stepping on an opponent’s foot. As there is a lot of changing direction and jumping in basketball(2) it is understandable why it has a high prevalence.

Can they be prevented?

The risk of sustaining an ankle sprain can be significantly reduced. There is evidence of reducing incidences of sprains by implementing a structured, supervised warm up routine before training and games(3) with a focus on balance and control. There is also some evidence, although conflicting, about the use of ankle tape or braces to reduce sprains,(4) which might suggest a case by case basis. From what we have seen in the clinic there are usually a number of specific factors that can also increase a player’s risk of sustaining a sprain such as strength, flexibility and biomechanics which can all be screened and improved, ideally prior to the season.

What if I have a sprained ankle?

Come in and get it assessed and treated. Physiotherapy is effective in both treating acute sprains and preventing reoccurrence.(5) This will usually involve some acute management to settle the pain down, followed by conditioning exercises to build the function and strength of the ankle up to be sport ready.

1) Gerber JP, Williams GN, Scoville CR, Arciero RA, Taylor DC. Persistent disability associated with ankle sprains: a prospective examination of an athletic population. Foot Ankle Int. 1998;19(10):653–660. doi: 10.1177/107110079801901002
2) Carter, E.A., Westerman, B.J. and Hunting, K.L. (2011) Risk of injury in basketball, football, and soccer players, ages 15 years and older, 2003-2007. Journal of Athletic Training 46, 484-488.
3) LaBella CR et al. (2011). Effect of Neuromuscular Warm-up on Injuries in Female Soccer and Basketball Athletes in Urban Public High Schools, ARCH PEDIATR ADOLESC MED/ VOL 165 (NO. 11), NOV 2011, pg 1033 -1040.
4) Panagiotakis E, Mok KM, Fong DT, Bull AMJ, (2017). Biomechanical analysis of ankle ligamentous sprain injury cases from televised basketball games: Understanding when, how and why ligament failure occurs. Journal Of Science And Medicine In Sport [J Sci Med Sport] 2017 Dec; Vol. 20 (12), pp. 1057-1061. Date of Electronic Publication: 2017 May 25.
5) Petersen W, et al. (2013). Treatment of acute ankle ligament injuries: a systematic review. Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2013 Aug;133(8):1129-41. doi: 10.1007/s00402-013-1742-5. Epub 2013 May 28

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