Video Helps Prevent Ankle Injuries Among High School Athletes

May 14, 2001
News Office: Maureen McInaney

"Stay in the Game," a six-minute video developed by a UCSF Medical Center orthopedic surgeon, was distributed to high schools nationwide as part of a campaign to prevent permanent ankle injury among young athletes.

The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, in cooperation with the National Federation of High School Associations, distributed the video in May. Dr. Glenn Pfeffer, an orthopedic surgeon at UCSF Medical Center, developed the idea and wrote the video script.

"Targeting young athletes is important because we know that the earlier a sprain occurs in life, there's a higher chance of recurring sprains, unstable joints, arthritis-like pain or other complications like tendon or cartilage damage. It's important to properly treat initial sprains," Pfeffer said.

The most common ankle injury, a sprain, occurs when ligaments that connect bones are stretched or torn, when the ankle turns sharply inward or outward. If a sprain occurs and it hurts to run, athletes need to sit out, Pfeffer said. "You can't play through a bad sprain." Once a sprain has occurred athletes should think in terms of three steps.

Step 1: RICE Follow the instructions represented by the acronym RICE as often as possible for three days. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression (with an elastic ankle wrap) and elevation (toes above the nose). For significantly swollen ankles or if limping persists for more than three days, you should see a doctor.

Step 2: Rehabilitation To prevent permanent damage to the ankle, take steps to achieve better range of motion (flexibility), balance and strength. Many of these exercises can be done at home.

Range of motion exercise: Place one foot on a stairway step. Allow the back heel to stretch downward over the edge of the step. Hold each foot in this position for 30 seconds.

Balance restoration exercise: Stand on one leg with your eyes closed. Gradually build up to standing 30 seconds on each leg. Repeat three times.

Strength exercise: Lie on your side on the sofa, with the upper leg hanging over the edge. Place the top of your foot through the handles of a plastic shopping bag filled with one to two pounds of weight (one or two cans of soup). Slowly lift your toes toward the ceiling and hold for three seconds. Repeat 10 times.

Step 3: Support Athletes should wear an ankle brace. "No matter how much you rehabilitate the ankle, it may never give you the same support again," Pfeffer said. "High-top tennis shoes are not enough and taping doesn't always do the job because it is hard to do correctly."

Orthopedists estimate that 27,000 Americans a day sprain an ankle. This is the top orthopedic complaint and the most common sports injury among regular athletes and weekend warriors alike, Pfeffer said. "People try to play through it, work through it. We need to let athletes young and old know that if they don't take care of their ankle sprains, they can run into lifelong trouble."

The video was funded by an educational grant from Aircast Co. and the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS). For more information about the video, please contact Pfeffer at (415) 923-3700 or the AOFAS at (800) 235-4855.