Frequently Asked Questions

I am a bronc rider on a college rodeo team. Last season, I got my foot caught in a stirrup and tore the ligaments holding the bones together in the lower part of my leg. It's been more than two months since the injury and I'm still gimping around. What can I do to get back in shape?

If your surgeon tells you the ankle is stable, then you should be able to see a physical therapist and get an exercise program going. The therapist will first do some testing to find out what needs to be worked on. Joint range-of-motion, strength, balance, and motor control will be measured. There are some specific functional tests that can be done, too. Once motion and strength for simple tasks have been restored, then more complex strengthening and balance exercises can be prescribed. Returning to activities such as bronc riding may require a few changes to the rehab program normally offered to a football player or other sports athlete. For example, neuromuscular control can be restored through different types of training exercises such as plyometrics and closed kinetic chain tasks. Plyometrics is a type of exercise training designed to produce fast, powerful movements. The goal is to improve the functions of the nervous system in order to improve performance in a specific sport. During plyometric movements muscles are loaded and then contracted in rapid sequence. The muscle generates as strong a contraction as possible in the shortest amount of time. The muscle is being reprogrammed to contract faster and with more force. This will allow the athlete to jump higher, run faster, throw farther, or hit harder. The specific exercises used and muscles trained depend on the desired training goal. Closed kinetic chain exercises are performed with the foot in contact with the ground (or floor). The athlete uses his or her own body weight to place a compressive force through multiple joints at one time. For the leg, some examples of closed kinetic chain activities include squats, lunges, leg and presses. Not only the ankle, but also the knee and ankle are affected by these exercises. The therapist will work with you to create a sport specific program. With an injury of this type, expect a two to three month process of recovery and rehab.

Michael J. DeFranco, MD, et al. High Ankle Sprains Require a High Index of Suspicion. In The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine. December 2008. Vol. 25. No. 12. Pp. 564-569.

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