Can Exercise Hurt Torn Ligaments in an Ankle?

Stretching after jogging/excercise

When you tear a ligament in your ankle your injury is also know as a sprain. A severe sprain can require surgery to repair torn ligaments because your ligaments connect the bones in your ankle joint. Your ligaments perform an important function; they keep the bones in your ankle in accurate alignment so your joint can function normally. Exercises that further strain an injured ankle can prolong healing or make the injury worse.


A torn ankle ligament can be a serious and painful injury. If your doctor allows, you may return to activities that do not put force on your ankle joint such as swimming or riding your bicycle. Your activity level depends on the severity of your injury. When you return to exercises, you should avoid any that result in ankle swelling or pain. Returning to exercise before your injury is healed can make your injury worse. If you are exercising and experience pain and/or swelling, consider using the RICE approach to treat your torn ligament to avoid additional damage.

Actions That Cause Injury

Exercises or uses of your ankle that require rotation of the joint are especially problematic following a torn ligament. Because the ligaments act to attach the bones in your ankle, moving the bones in the joint before the injury is healed can result in an exacerbation of your symptoms. Do not exercise until your injury has healed. Healing time is based on the extent of injury. Your doctor may recommend that you avoid exercising and sports for up to six weeks following a severe injury.

Prevent Reinjury

Preventing reinjury is important. Your doctor may suggest the RICE protocol. R stands for rest, I for ice, C for compression and E for elevation. These four actions are important immediately following injury to help reduce swelling and bruising. Once your ligament tear has healed, your doctor may request that you wear a semi-rigid ankle brace when you exercise. Other options include wearing an air filled brace, ankle wraps, tape, and high top tennis shoes to help prevent stress to your injured ankle. With your doctor's approval, there are some exercises you can do to help prevent re injury.

Exercise to Prevent Reinjury

Strengthening the muscles in your ankle will help protect the ligaments and hopefully avoid reinjury. Exercises to try include ankle circles. Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you. Rotate your ankle form left to right, make a circle and reverse the rotation. Try to do this three times per day. You can also use your large toe to try and write the letters of the alphabet in the air. In the beginning, sit while you rotate and write letters and as you progress, try standing. Other exercises include heel raises; begin by sitting in a chair and raising your heel off the ground in your injured leg. As you progress, do the heel raises standing. Working on steps also helps strengthen your muscles. Simply step up and back down on alternating legs. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help strengthen your muscles once your ligament has healed. If you experience pain or swelling during any exercises, stop exercising, deploy the RICE method and contact your health care provider for further instructions.