The 15 Minute Sprained Ankle
Miracle or Magic?
While carrying the ball upcourt against an opponent, the famed John Stockton wrecked his ankle in the beginning of the fourth quarter. The news joked that a one-legged Stockton may be all the Jazz needed. The injury would definitely end the game for him, if not his season.
For the last 20 years, doctors prescribed the conventional RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. The regular return-to-play timeframe for the average ankle sprain is 4-6 weeks. John Stockton and other elite athletes have recovered in minutes to days using a different approach.
Unless there is structural damage (like a broken bone), RICE is the wrong treatment for an injured ankle. Your care should be different. Your recovery should be different. Your story should be different.
Breaking Down the Ankle Sprain
When your ankle is sprained, the surrounding musculature takes on a load greater than its capacity, causing numerous muscles to shut down. Your body’s amazing ability to compensate often hides this shut down, and muscle failure is subtle unless isolated in movement. A muscle’s failure to fire is called neuroproprioceptive inhibition.
Injured, the ankle yells for the body to send necessary nutrition to the damaged tissue: fresh oxygen and needed materials. Unimpeded, the the body will naturally deliver these healing elements in the form of inflammation.
Why RICE is Wrong
Compression and elevation make it difficult for the body to deliver any nutrition to the ankle. Without use, the muscle will atrophy. After 4 weeks of running the RICE cycle, pain and bruising are gone. The season is over, so you wisely start small with little foot drills and a dribble or two around your little sister. But for some reason, your ankle doesn’t feel quite like it used to. For the rest of your athletic career, you either wear a brace or tape it before every practice or game.
This story is familiar to athletes of any sport. In every college training room you will find a wall of players waiting to be taped; it’s like pre-practice social hour. Why so common? Muscles are (1) weak from disuse and (2) unstable because of the neuroproprioceptive inhibition. The ankle doesn’t feel right because it is using other muscles to compensate for the shutdown. Those minute movements that require the guarded muscles will unconsciously be avoided. All this makes you prone to sprain your ankle again and again, causing further damage and repressed function.
The original injury never healed correctly.
If you are like many, you are stuck in the cycle of good-enough-to-practice-but-not-start-and-stuck-in-endless-rehab. When you’re not on the bench, you’re still in the training room. You have become a giant compensation pattern avoiding direct use of inhibited muscles.
Change Your Tactics
Throw RICE out the window and replace it with ABS. It will change the whole story.
Activity: Move your ankle in light and pain-free movements. This promotes blood flow and diminishes muscle atrophy.
Blood flow: Periodically massage the fluid up your leg to assist the exchange of oxygen and reparative nutrition.
Stabilization: Visit a trained professional who uses Advanced Muscle Integration Technique (AMIT) - the same technique that returned John Stockton to the basketball court in minutes. This final step is the most important for recovery, prevention, and performance enhancement. There are 12 muscles crossing the ankle joint; most have multiple divisions that can be isolated in testing. Reactivation of those inhibited muscles is integral to a quick and full recovery.
End the Cycle
Take the pack of frozen peas off your ankle and eat them; you need more vegetables. That pillow was designed to go under your head, not your ankle. You can recover before your weekend game and you can compete in the finals. You can play in the championship game performing better than before your ankle sprain. You compete with confidence knowing that your ankle is fully stable.
"I sprained my ankle playing basketball and couldn’t walk without pain. Later that day, I went to Peak Performance and Recovery. In just one 45-minute session I was able to run without pain. Forty-eight hours after spraining my ankle I was able to play basketball for 2 hours pain and brace free - amazing! My ankle is still swollen and black and blue, so I know that I really got it good, but it is fully functional.”
- Jaden, basketball player
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