Isometric exercise during immobilisation reduces the time to return to play after ankle sprain


Ankle sprains are very common and can occur not through just playing sport, but simply when out walking. The outside of the ankle tends to be injured more than the inside soft tissue structures, and many often report swelling, bruising, pain and an inability to weight-bear on the injured ankle.


The extent of the soft tissue damage is often indicative of the treatment and management approach. More serious injuries will require immobilisation of the ankle joint, but is this counterproductive? Immobilisation reduces symptoms such as pain, but it may worsen the range of motion of the ankle and delay return to play.


A study looked into the effects of performing isometric exercises (muscle contraction without moving the joint) and using electrical muscle stimulation to see if this would increase range of motion and shorten time to return to play. Results highlighted that those who performed isometric exercises, and who underwent electrical muscle stimulation increased the total ankle range of motion and shortened the time to return to play.


This highlights in the importance of not only maintaining muscle strength, but also joint proprioception and muscle activity to reduce rehabilitation time.


Toyoshima, Y. et al. (2021). Isometric exercise during immobilisation reduces the time to return to play after lateral ankle sprain. Physical Therapy in Sport. 52: 168-172.