/ Recurring ankle sprain - advice please?

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RobertHepburn - on 02 Sep 2014
I have a recurring ankle sprain, and would appreciate some advice about what help to seek, who to seek it from, and what I should do myself. I think that the high forces placed on the ankle in climbing, and especially dynamic bouldering, mean that climbing specific experience will be useful!

I am a 45 year old who normally boulders 4 times a week, and mountain bikes twice a week. I also have a very understanding wife!

End of May: I fell off a boulder problem (Monty Pythons Direct at Kyloe-In) from about 1m and rolled my ankle off the edge of my pad, with a great "crack" noise. Could walk next day with ankle support and stick. I did easy traverses above crash pad at wall whilst wearing support about 2 weeks later and progressed slowly.

Start of August (9 weeks later): Felt fully recovered and went to Font for a long weekend, climbed well within my abilities and took no risks. Near the end I did a small dynamic move (repeating a Font 5) pushing off the bad ankle and it just gave way with a "crack" noise again. Sudden pain for 30 seconds and then felt fine. When I got home I went back to traversing at climbing wall, but also went to GP who referred me for physio - no letter yet though.

Late August (Another 3 weeks later): Twisted ankle after not seeing 2 inch level change in floor in holiday cottage. 2 days after rolled it again on the edge of a tarmac road whist wearing my elasticated support. I went down hard and could not stand for a day. I got a better ankle support that stops any rolling, and feel fairly recovered after a week.

I am now worried about my ankle, and want to:
1. Not damage my ankle any more!
2. Get the right diagnosis and exercises
3, Get my ankle strong enough for every day walking etc
4. Get my ankle strong enough to take dynamic bouldering moves
5. Keep my climbing fitness whilst it recovers

Thanks for any advice or experiences you can share.


chrisa87 - on 02 Sep 2014
In reply to RobertHepburn:

I'm in a similar situation, but once the ligaments have been damaged in a sprain they are not going to get back to 100% strength and will be a permanent weakness.

The only way to get a right diagnosis is to see a professional imo and get the exercises they recommend based on the injury and now present weaknesses. Though to start off, try doing calf-raises off the back of a step and single leg calf raises (this was what was recommended to me. ymmv)
steveriley - on 02 Sep 2014
In reply to RobertHepburn:

Sympathy - I did mine 4 times in a row fell running. Ligaments take long time to tighten up. Some of what you've lost is about proprioception. There's things you can do to both rebuild strength and co-ordination and that mostly unconscious sense of where your joints are in space and how you're moving them. Variations of one leg squats, balance board, drawing the alphabet in space whilst you're sat watching telly, stuff like that.

Think of ankle supports, tape, etc as a short term fix to be weaned off. Though taping can give you a useful reminder when it pulls as you're about to go over.
Phill Mitch - on 02 Sep 2014
In reply to RobertHepburn: Hi Robert. You have got my sympathy on this one.
Firstly I would like to say that I gave my ankle a bad sprain at the age of 12. I have suffered with constant sprains ever since( now 52 ). It seems if I am very careful and wear boots a lot it gets stronger and is ok for long periods. Then all it takes is to go over on it leading to at least another 3 sprains in succession. No fun at all!
The good news is that for the past 3 years it's been fine. Using a wobble board has helped to strengthen it I think. But I can highly recommend slack lining for the exact same reason. The muscle groups in the lower leg that it works are the main ones that hold you upright. It's even fun. Goes without saying I suppose but keep it low and over a flat surface. Job done.

estivoautumnal - on 02 Sep 2014
In reply to RobertHepburn:

Not sure I can help or give advice but I sprained my ankle 12 days ago and at the moment can only walk for about 10 minutes at a time before the pain is too great. I read that the pain should go away within 6 weeks so not to worried yet.

So I would say that walking until it get sore isn't doing it any good, swelling gets worse, so maybe the same applies?

Swimming, if you have access to a pool will help with fitness. I've also been out Canadian canoeing on the sea which helps with arm fitness.

Jack - on 02 Sep 2014
In reply to RobertHepburn:

Google ankle sprain trigger points. I've had a few from fell running, and the ankle is always weak for a good while even though it's ok to use again. Do all the one legged balance stuff, and get a tennis ball and roll across the peroneal tendon that runs down the out side of the leg. When you find a trigger point, work at it till it eases. These may be quite high up your leg.

Hope that helps, it has for me.
Dan_S - on 02 Sep 2014
In reply to RobertHepburn:

In my honest opinion I don't think you allowed enough time from the first sprain to fully heal, and you've been compounding the damage since.

I did something similar and managed to have 40 odd "sprains" in 14 years. I eventually persuaded a GP to refer me to someone who knew what they were doing who basically said that all the phsio in the world wouldnt fix my ankle. I ended up having ligament reconstruction surgery last September with 16 weeks off work in casts and off sporting activities for another 12 weeks before starting up again slowly. My ankle felt pretty much good as new as at June this year. I've just broken my collarbone so am feeling somewhat hacked off with being broken! (20 weeks sick leave!)

Feel free to email me if you want any advice etc.
Durbs on 03 Sep 2014
Hey Rob,

Pesky ankle hey - didn't think I'd seen you down at Craggy much.

I've got a friend who had a wobble-board, just texted him to see if he's still got it - will ping you a text if so.

Speedy recovery


kp64zl - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to RobertHepburn:

Slacklining is great for improving your balance/ proprioception.

At least, until you fall off and sprain your other ankle / knee!!!!!!!
iccle_bully - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to RobertHepburn:

I knackered my ankle a few years ago (tore pretty much everything in there and was on crutches for 3 weeks etc.) and the first thing I'll say is that all is not lost! I would say both my ankles are now stronger than they were before.

Keep your ankle mobile, that doesn't necessarily mean weight bearing, but try to flex it as much as possible without any resistance or with if it is strong enough.

If you have scar tissue build up massage can be really helpful (although f*****g painful!).

Definitely worth seeing a physio and making sure there's nothing unusual going on.

Ice baths for 12 minutes at a time.

Lots of strengthening exercises, it's worth investing in a hedgehog or wobble board and some therabands. Do a search on the other channel for ankle injuries and exercises, it gets discussed on there on a regular basis.

Good luck!
RobertHepburn - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Durbs:

I haven't been at craggy because I was on Holiday for 2 weeks - back but low level traversing above the mats with a support only. Probably not best advised, but I am making sure I can fall onto my side/back or step off carefully. I think it will be at least 6 months before I can start to boulder properly again.

I think a wobble board will be useful for later in the recovery - not sure when to use it I guess?

I am going to go back to the doctor and try to get an ultrasound, so we can see just how bad the damage is. I will also try to find out how long the NHS might be before seeing me, and consider a private physio session to get some advice.

Thanks to everyone for all the advice and sympathy! I will have to try to be patient, but it is not in my nature .

Jenny C on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to RobertHepburn: Be sensible, you've hurt your ankle, given it time to heel, then hurt it again. Take stock of the situation and listen to your body.

Stop bouldering and give the ankle a chance to heel, as others have said once weakened it will take a long time (months!) before the ankle is back to full strength - don't risk further injury, stick to roped climbing where the risk of impact is much lower and build on your stamina instead.

Get to a sports physio who can give you a proper diagnosis and recommend a treatment programme, yes it will cost a few £'s but if you value your bouldering it's worth the expense.

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