Inversion ankle sprains, or sprains that involve the ankle turning inwards, are a very common injury both with athletes and with sedentary people. This type of injury often needs physical therapy, and there is much published research and data in relation to why these injuries occur, how to rehabilitate sprains, and how to prevent repeat sprains.
One clinical observation pertaining to ankle sprainers is that many of these people tend to lack strength in the “hip abductors.” These muscles include the gluteus medius and minimus, and also to a lesser extent the gluteus maximus.
Could weak hip abductors actually make it more likely for someone to sprain his or her ankle?
Most likely the answer is yes. Patients with hip abductor weakness tend to hit the ground with their heel slightly closer to the midline of the body when walking.
To picture this, consider walking on a straight line drawn on the floor. This “tightrope” type of walking requires placing the foot at the midline of the body, leaving the same-sided hip comparatively speaking out to the side. This is a prime position for a sprain as the body’s center of gravity places stress on the ankle in such a way that encourages the ankle to roll inwards. Ouch.
Of course, we all don’t walk around on tightropes, but the physics still holds true for even minor deviations like the one just described. All rehab protocols for ankle sprains ought to include strengthening for the hip abductor muscles. Strong hip abduction helps to place the ankle in an ideal striking position with walking and running.
One idea for hip abduction strengthening is side-walking with elastic resistance around the lower legs. View the hip side-walking exercise video below.
Image credits: Top photo © Hasan Shaheed/Fotolia; 2nd © Maridav/Fotolia