Q. I had an injury two months ago when I sprained my ankle. After a couple of weeks of taking it easy, I started slowly with sport activities and then got back to regular routine. That includes 2-3 tennis matches and several volleyball games per week - so I am in a good shape for a 38-year-old. For some reason, I am experiencing pain in the calf that had the injured ankle. I was wondering if that could be related or if I should look for answers elsewhere.
A. The tightness in your calf can be a result of “taking it easy” after your ankle sprain. Your calf muscles may have shortened and become weaker during the period of inactivity.
I suggest you perform standing calf stretches (after a 10 min period of warm-up) holding the stretch for 20-30 seconds each time 2-3 times per day.
Perform the calf stretches with your knee straight and with it slightly bent to ‘hit’ both muscles in the calf. Sometimes after an ankle sprain, swelling can occur underneath the Achilles tendon and that can also cause pain and tightness.
If you have pain there, a deep massage to “milk” out the stubborn swelling may help, too.
Q. I recently suffered a broken ankle and was wondering if you had any suggestions for exercises or other activities that will help speed the recovery time.
A. Your ankle will heal faster and better with exercise, but without being able to see you or your medical report it is difficult to prescribe exercises. My suggestion is to seek the help of a physical therapist in your area and you should probably be seeing the PT 3-4x’s a week. You should be focusing on regaining your strength and balance. Some exercises that the PT will most likely recommend are: heel raises, single leg balance drills, lunges, mini-squats and step-ups.
Q. I recently tore a ligament in my ankle – the doctor says to stay off it for 3-4 weeks. When I return to the court, how long should I continue to wear the ankle brace? I have one of those air braces that allow your ankle to say straight and not twist.
A. The key to a rapid recovery and safe return to tennis following an ankle sprain is a proper rehabilitation program. This includes ice, elevation and compression in the early stages in order to reduce pain and swelling, followed by a progressive ankle exercise program designed to regain motion, strength and coordination. Ankle braces can be helpful in the recovery process by providing compression and mechanical support.
For mild sprains, use of an ankle brace may be discontinued once the ankle has been fully rehabilitated. More severe ankle sprains can result in permanent instability (looseness) of the ankle, in which case the use of an ankle brace during tennis and other sports activities may be recommended on an ongoing basis.