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American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Preventing Sprains In Youth Sports

Proper Conditioning, Stretching and Good Shoes Help


A sprain is caused by direct or indirect trauma (a fall, a blow to the body, etc.) that knocks a joint out of position, and overstretches, and, in severe cases, ruptures or tears the supporting ligaments. Typically, this injury occurs when an individual lands on an outstretched arm; slides into a base, jumps up and lands on the side of the foot; runs on an uneven playing surface or makes a sudden, sharp movement. Sprains can occur in any joint in the body, not just ankles and knees.

Along with strains sprains are among the most common injuries in sports. All sports and exercises, even walking, carry a risk of such injuries. Sprains can take as little as a few days to heal or as long as a few weeks. For more on the treatment of ankle sprains, click here.

To reduce the risk of sprains, experts, including the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, recommend that your child:

  • Follow a pre-season conditioning program to build muscle strength. If she starts a new sport without proper conditioning, she is at risk.
  • Avoid training errors, i.e., running up hills, or running on bumpy roads, which will predispose her to serious sprains and strains. Perform stretching exercises daily.
  • Warm up before any sports activity, including practice.
  • Listen to her body: She should never run if she experiences pain in the foot or ankle.
  • Replace athletic shoes when they are worn out.
  • Always wear properly fitting shoes.Loose-fitting shoes allow the foot to twist from side to side.Improperly fitting shoes or improper footwear for a particular sport can also damage your child's feet.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Use or wear protective equipment appropriate for her sport
  • Wear an ankle brace.

Because a surprising number of ankle sprains are the result of poor field conditions, you should also make sure that practice and game fields are free of holes, bumps and uneven surfaces.