Knowledge Base Running

How to Deal with Rolled Ankles

Besides many health-promoting side effects, the running boom also has an impact on accident statistics. Today almost twice as many joggers have accidents as at the turn of the millennium. The ankle joint is the most frequently affected.

For runners there is no one black Monday, but still the beginning of the week is a dangerous time. An evaluation by Suva shows that runners in Switzerland particularly often go jogging on a Tuesday or Wednesday and the accident statistics on these two days skyrocket. In total, accident insurers in Switzerland register 9000 running accidents a year. This may sound modest in view of the fact that, according to the report “Sport Switzerland 2014” by the Federal Office of Sports, almost a quarter of the Swiss population (i.e. around two million) regularly goes running, but the accidents result in a considerable cost of CHF 30 million per year.

More and more people run

Although costs have increased, running has not become more dangerous. “The risk of having an accident while running today hardly differs from the past,” says Peter Andermatt, a statistician at Suva. The increase in running accidents is therefore not due to a different and unaccustomed practice of the sport of running (e.g. more trail running, urban running, boot camps or obstacle courses), but simply a consequence of the fact that more and more people are running today.

The absolute number one running accident is a slip, fall or twist, almost always affecting the ankle and often resulting in ligament injuries. The outer side of the ankle with its three ligaments is particularly often affected (the classic trespassing). Initial measures for ligament injuries of all kinds are carried out according to the RICE principle, which reads

  • Rest > immediate stop of the sporting action
  • Ice > cool as quickly as possible to stop the swelling
  • Compression > Apply bandage to keep the swelling under control
  • Elevation > Position the foot so that it lies over the heart

In addition to “cooling”, elevating is above all an effective and important measure that should be carried out as consistently as possible at the beginning. If you have experience with over striding, you can wait the first few days before you see the doctor. In the case of an initial injury, the following applies: subjective pain perception is not a reliable indicator when assessing the injury. Overstretching the ligaments can be just as painful or even more painful than a rupture of a ligament.

In order to better assess the severity of the injury, it is important to observe where and to what extent a bruise develops. As a rule of thumb, the more swelling occurs, the more extensive the tissue injury. To make sure that no bone structures have been injured, the joint should be shown to a doctor in case of doubt. The treatment procedure is usually similar: compared to the past, ligament injuries to the foot are rarely operated on. Instead, the aim is to restore good mobility and stability in the ankle as quickly as possible by means of targeted physiotherapy. This requires a rehabilitation period of about six weeks.

Strong feet improve safety

The best protection against rolling your ankle is provided by strong feet, which can safely cushion and absorb loads even on unstable ground. Unfortunately, runners do gain this foot strength in their everyday life, which is dominated by flat surfaces. Regular running does not help as many people think (unless they regularly run barefoot on a meadow or in the sand). It can only effectively be achieved through consistent foot strengthening in the form of foot exercises and targeted strength and balance training. Coordination exercises also help the feet to cope better with all kinds of situations. And as motivation, we would like to add: consistent foot exercises not only prevent injuries, but also make you faster.


Text: Andrew Gonseth

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