Ankle injuries

Exploring how one of the most common injuries affect athletes and their performances

Lance Tong

Just before halftime of a MVHS JV Girls soccer game against Fremont HS, junior Anika Mishra had successfully taken the ball away from her opponent and was dribbling the ball up the sideline on a counterattack. Mishra scanned the field and locked eyes with the varsity coach who signaled to Mishra to cross the ball. After taking a few more steps forward, she planted and crossed the ball like she had done thousands of times before at practices and games. But this time was different — Mishra’s foot gave out, and her ankle twisted. She knew it immediately. 

Despite her ankle throbbing after her shot attempt, Mishra didn’t tell her coach that she had twisted it, believing that if her coach had known about the injury during the game, her coach would not have allowed her to play in the second half. 

“I definitely was running slower [after the injury] — I started getting really scared when someone came near me [that] they would step on me and my ankle was going to do something else,” Mishra said. “I got really hesitant, which is really bad in soccer [because] I was less aggressive.”

Mishra ended up finishing the game, and her team went on to win by one goal. However, Mishra believes that by continuing to play, she ultimately harmed her team, even though they won. She does not recommend other soccer players do the same, despite ankle injuries being common in the sport and seeming harmless.

Similarly, sophomore and basketball player Philip Chiu says that he has also experienced frequent twisted ankles during his games. He says that he has around five ankle injuries a year, which he attributes to his attacking style of play. 

“Since basketball is a contact sport where you’re jumping all the time, collisions happen over a hundred times each game,” Chiu said. “Especially in the air when you’re going up for layups, there are definitely going to be a few unlucky times when you land on someone’s foot [and hurt yourself].”

Chiu notes that his view on ankle injuries has shifted as he’s played more — in fact, he has now come to expect them. 

“In the beginning, it was a lot harder because obviously you’re new to the sport and when you jump, you don’t expect [collisions],” Chiu said. “But when you continue to grow as a basketball player, you start to expect it when you jump into defenders or you’re going up for layups.”

Sophomore and MVHS JV basketball player Itai Lavi also experiences many ankle injuries despite playing a less aggressive style of basketball like Chiu.

“[Ankle sprains] is one of the more annoying injuries that I’ve had,” Lavi said. “I just went up for a layup and came down wrong. For something so small, it had a big effect, and it definitely was one of the most devastating and annoying injuries.”

Lavi explains that the reason the injuries are frustrating is the week-long recovery period, causing him to miss games and practices. Lavi tries to attend practices, even when he can’t play, as morale support.

“When your ankle gets hurt, you need to rest it,” Lavi said. “You have to be sidelined for a practice or a game which can be annoying because there aren’t a lot of games in a season so you want to play them all.”

To reduce the recovery period as much as possible, Chiu explains that he ices, wraps and elevates his ankles. By using this method, he is back in action within a few days. 

“It depends on the severity, but on average you could definitely feel [the pain] for the next week,” Chiu said.  “It’s definitely noticeable. But after the first few days, if you’re rolling it out and making sure you’re not jumping a lot or doing anything crazy and you let it heal while continuing to be active, you can definitely play with [the ankle injury].”

Mishra explains that she takes similar measures to Chiu while nursing her ankle and emphasizes the importance of icing it at intervals. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, patients with twisted ankles should take normal precautions —  they recommend icing the ankle to prevent swelling, raising the ankle, compressing the ankle and resting the ankle until healed. The clinic states that all of these measures prevent swelling and further injury on the ankle.

Nevertheless, Lavi, Chiu and Mishra all have found that ankle injuries can have major effects on their performance. Mishra advises that athletes inform their coaches of their injury so they can make appropriate decisions for the player’s and the team’s overall wellbeing.

“A lot of athletes play through the pain because of [their] will to win,” Mishra said. “I really want to do everything I can to make sure there’s a good outcome out of a game. I know another part of it is because I have a bit of an ego when it comes to it, because I think that if I need to sit out then I’m weak. I don’t think that’s the case. I want everyone to know that that’s not the case. It’s more important for you to sit out for a week because you got hurt versus making it that much worse.”