With Proper Ankle Care Pickleballers and Other Athletes Can Keep Dinking

Ankles are essential joints in the human body, playing a pivotal role in mobility and balance. Located between the lower leg and the foot, the ankle is a complex structure composed of bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. The main bones involved are the tibia and fibula in the lower leg and the talus in the foot. These components work together to allow a range of movements such as walking, running, and jumping.

Despite their strength, ankles are vulnerable to injuries like sprains and fractures, often resulting from overuse, improper footwear, or sudden twists and turns. Ankle health is a crucial aspect of overall well-being that is often overlooked. “The ankle is a complex joint that supports the weight of the body and allows for a wide range of motion, making it susceptible to various injuries and conditions,” says Naven Duggal, MD, an orthopedic surgeon on the SOS Foot and Ankle Team. “Proper care and attention to this vital joint can prevent discomfort, enhance mobility, and ensure long-term functionality.”

One of the most common issues affecting ankle health is sprains, which occur when the ligaments that support the ankle are stretched or torn. Ankle sprains can happen during physical activities like running, jumping, or even walking on uneven surfaces. To prevent ankle sprains, it's essential to strengthen the muscles around the ankle through exercises and wear supportive footwear. Chronic ankle instability is another concern, often resulting from repeated sprains or inadequate rehabilitation. This condition can lead to persistent pain, swelling, and a feeling of the ankle "giving way." Addressing chronic instability involves a combination of physical therapy, the use of braces or orthotics, or in severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to repair damaged ligaments.

Pickleball Players Coming Together at the Net

Ankle injuries are a common concern for athletes, particularly in dynamic sports like pickleball and tennis. These fast-paced games require quick lateral movements, rapid changes in direction, and sudden stops, all of which put significant stress on the ankles. Preventing such injuries is crucial for maintaining performance and ensuring long-term participation in these beloved sports. “Pickleball has become a widely popular sport; is easy to learn, promotes competitiveness and socialization, and is a great form of low impact exercise,” commented Duggal. “As with any physical activity it is important to prepare before playing and listen to your body to prevent injuries.”

Preventative measures not only enhance your performance but also contribute to a more enjoyable and sustainable athletic experience. Remember, taking care of your ankles today means more time on the court tomorrow. “An injury does not mean you are not suited to play sports,” says Duggal. “Do not let the fear of injury stop you from keeping an active lifestyle.” Maintaining ankle health is not solely about injury prevention; it also includes managing conditions like arthritis and tendonitis. Maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and ensuring proper nutrition, especially adequate calcium and vitamin D intake, are all vital components of ankle health. By taking proactive steps to care for your ankles, you can enjoy greater mobility and a higher quality of life.

SOS has the following tips for pickleball and tennis players, and any athlete whose sport places pressure on their ankles:

  • Proper footwear is essential. Tennis and pickleball shoes are designed to provide the necessary support and stability for the specific movements involved in these sports.
  • Incorporate strengthening and conditioning exercises. Consistent stretching and warm-ups before play are also crucial to prepare your muscles and tendons for the physical demands of the game.
  • Consider the importance of proper technique and body mechanics. Learning and practicing the correct footwork can significantly reduce the risk of ankle injuries. Coaches and trainers can provide valuable insights and drills to help you move more efficiently and safely on the court.
  • Listen to your body and know when to rest. Pushing through pain or fatigue increases the risk of injury, so take breaks and allow adequate recovery time between intense sessions.

By prioritizing proper footwear, strengthening exercises, and correct technique, you can significantly reduce the risk of ankle injuries in pickleball and tennis. Should injury occur, members of the SOS team are ready and available to care for you.