The ‘gentle art’ isn’t exactly as gentle as advertised. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is filled with minor to major injuries. And if you trained long enough, you may have already popped your ankle at least once. In BJJ, ankle injuries usually mean a sprained ankle. However, there are instances when you need the help of an orthopedic doctor.
Regardless if you are a competitor or someone who does Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a hobby, you need to pay close attention to your ankle injury to ensure that you don’t re-injure or worsen the problem. Here are some tips on how you can recover from an ankle injury.
RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, & Elevation
Whether it’s a straight foot lock, a toe hold, or perhaps you landed badly on your foot during a passing sequence, you need to immediately address the injury the moment you feel discomfort on your ankle.
The acronym RICE is the best course of action that you can do for an ankle injury within the first 24 hours. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You want to rest the round instead of risk worsening the injury. Next, you also want to apply ice on the injured area intermittently every 15 minutes. Next, you might want to stabilise, support and compress the injured area by putting bandages and tapes and ankle support products. Also, you want to have it elevated. This first aid approach can help promote healing and lessen the pain especially in the coming days.
Further information on RICE and ankle sprains: Treating an Ankle Sprain – The Bad Back Company
Bringing Back the Ankle’s Range of Motion
One of the biggest drawbacks of getting injured is that you might lose some flexibility and mobility. Depending on the severity of the injury, it might take some time before you can perform any of these exercises without wincing in pain.
- Tracing the Alphabet
A great way to regain your ankle’s range of motion is by drawing the alphabet using your toes. This encourages your toes to move around in all directions. Do this gradually. Perhaps, spell your name? Or maybe, spell your academy’s name using your toes. Do this for 3-5 times a day.
- Drawing Circles
Another range of motion exercise for injured ankles is by drawing circles using your toes. Do five to ten circles in one direction before going the other way. Try to do this exercise for 3-5 times a day.
- Flexing and Extending
Next, you can do flexing and extending the toes to ensure that you get to regain the usual movement of your ankles when you are walking. To properly do this exercise, flex your foot for 10-15 seconds before extending it for the same duration.
Strengthening the Ankles
One of the most important things overlooked by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athletes after they are strong enough to stand and walk around without any discomfort in their ankle is to do strength and conditioning exercises.
What you want to achieve is to build strong muscles surrounding the joint to lessen the instances of an ankle injury. Both strength and proprioception are important if you wish to lessen the chances of injuries.
Ever witnessed athletes who were able to bounce back after a slip and not get injured? That’s a prime example of proprioception. Think of proprioception as your ability to detect instances wherein you are about to get injured.
This is usually done using balance exercises. Athletes are usually asked to stand on one leg. The difficulty increases gradually as you get to develop your balance. Eventually, you will be asked to catch a ball while standing on one leg.
It is equally important to improve the muscles surrounding the ankles. Strengthening can be done using a resistance band wherein you can do plantar flexion and extensions. If you don’t have resistance bands, you can also do calf raises which address not only the calf but also the Achilles tendon.
Getting injured is part of the game. Minor ankle injuries usually improve after 3 weeks. However, be sure to do these tips to get back 100%. And of course, be sure to tap often if you find yourself in a leg attack that too uncomfortable. You’d rather tap than to spend three weeks nursing an ankle injury.