Ankle Exercises: are we finishing the job?

Ankle Rehabilitation: are we finishing the job?

The ankle is one of the most commonly injured body parts in sports, with ankle sprains being the predominant injury. A sprained ankle is when the ligaments that provide stability to the joint are completely or partially torn. This injury may occur due to increased forces on the joint when pushing off, landing, or cutting/pivoting/twisting on the lower extremity. If not treated immediately, the athlete may have an increased risk of chronic ankle instability. Initial treatment sessions (can be 4-6 sessions depending on severity) are focused on decreasing pain and swelling, while restoring normal range of motion and initiating basic strengthening. Too often, rehabilitation ends when these impairments are resolved. However, a successful return to sports with a reduced risk of re-injury is predicated on a comprehensive rehabilitation program that addresses the dynamic stability and proprioception in the ankle joint.

After the early stages of ankle rehab when pain, swelling, and strength are normalized, it is important progress to neuromuscular training. This approach works to restore strength, agility, coordination, and balance. The program should progress from static exercises to more dynamic exercises that focus on jumping and landing. Use these exercises to expedite the recovery process and get back in the game!

  • Single leg balance on pillow: start by standing in a safe area with a counter or surface nearby for support. Stand on a pillow and lift up one leg, holding on to the support surface if needed. Once you are stable, let go of the counter and balance on one leg for 30 seconds. Increase by 15 second increments as balance improves. Perform 4 sets of 30 second holds.
    • Advance by removing shoes

Single Leg Balance Demonstration Video


  • Single leg heel raises standing in front of a counter, stand on one leg and lift that heel off the ground, hold for 3 seconds and then lower back to the ground. Perform 3 sets of 15 reps, both sides.
    • Advance by standing on a step to allow more range of motion

Calf Raises Demonstration Video

  • Single leg floor touches in multiple directions: set up three targets on the ground, one in front of your foot, one on the left, and one to the right. Stand on one leg and reach down to touch one of the targets, making sure to bend the hip and knee. Come back to an upright position before touching the other targets. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps for each target.
    • Advance by placing the objects farther away from you and removing shoes, standing on a pillow and removing shoes

Floor Touches Demonstration Video

  • Doorway jumps: stand in a doorway and hop up to touch the wall above the door frame. Try to land in the same spot each time. Perform 3 sets of 15 jumps on each leg.
    • Advance by jumping on one leg, increasing speed and height at which you jump

Doorway Jump Demonstration Video

  • Forwards and side to side hops: using a piece of scotch tape, make a line on the ground. On one leg, hop over the line forwards and backwards 20 times and then hop over the line side to side.  Perform 2 sets of 20 reps on both legs in each direction.













Line Jumps Demonstration Video

Line Jumps Demonstration Video 2

  • Dynamic lateral hops between two cones: set up to cones 6 feet apart. Start at one cone and hop to the other cone, landing on one leg (the one closest to the cone). Bend you knees and hip to touch the cone. Stand back up and hop to the other cone. Perform 2 sets of 20 reps.

Lateral Hops Demonstration Video