Assistant girls’ soccer coach Gabriella Foster checks on sophomore Evann Rudek. Rudek hyperextended her knee in a game against Delta High School.

Ankle injuries cripple players in four sports; former athletic trainer recommends taping, wearing preventative braces

Ethan Hockridge
Assistant girls’ soccer coach Gabriella Foster checks on sophomore Evann Rudek. Rudek hyperextended her knee in a game against Delta High School.

Ankle injuries send a million people in the United States to emergency rooms each year. And those injuries have affected every high-school spring sport except for lacrosse and swimming. 

Senior soccer players Emma Belliveau and Madison Judd and freshman Michaela Chen were injured and either missed several games or the rest of the season. 

In the March 17 practice game, Judd received the team’s first ankle sprain.

During a scrimmage in practice before the Victory Christian game, someone stepped on her right ankle, causing it to twist inward, she said. 

“Then I played with an already-weak ankle and sprained it while fighting for a ball on the bumpy Country Day field,” Judd said. 

As a result, Judd got an ankle brace a couple days after the game, and she’s been wearing the brace ever since.

“I’ve also had to do ankle exercises like writing out the alphabet in the air with my foot and jumping in shallow water to strengthen my ankle,” she said. 

In the March 19 game against Western Sierra, Belliveau was the next to suffer an ankle injury. 

Belliveau was shadowing an opposing player, who suddenly turned to pass her, and Belliveau’s foot became stuck in the grass. 

Adam Ketchum
Senior Emma Belliveau remains on crutches since hurting her ankle in a soccer game over two months ago.

“I was trying to move, but my foot was stuck in place,” Belliveau explained.

Her knee turned inward, and she fell forcefully on her ankle.

“The combination of my being clumsy and not being able to move caused me to get a third-degree sprain,” Belliveau said.

Consequently, Belliveau has been on crutches for more than a month, and she missed about eight games.

“It’s unfortunate that my injury took someone away from their position in order to fill mine,” Belliveau said. 

“This meant someone who doesn’t have as much experience was required to come off the bench to be the new center defense.”

Chen was the last to go down.

Near the end of the season, Chen rolled an ankle and learned that her other ankle was swollen at the end of the game

“It turned out that I strained a tendon in both of my ankles, but I kept playing,” Chen said.

After a few more games, she went to a check-up with her doctor, who told Chen to rest for four weeks, ending Chen’s season. 

“I was a midfielder, so (my absence) might have left a gap in our starting lineup, but (junior) Elizabeth (Brownridge) and other midfielders were able to play in my place,” Chen said. 

Freshman Heidi Johnson was the only member of the track and field team to receive an injury. But again it was an ankle injury.

At her first meet during the high jump, Johnson tried to go high without conditioning before the season.

Because of the curve during the run-up for the high jump and over-striding, Johnson pulled a ligament in her ankle.

She later went to a sports chiropractor, who told her to do exercises to strengthen and heal her ankle injury.

“I didn’t wait enough time before going back to high jump, so I re-injured my foot about three times throughout the season,” Johnson said.

According to Johnson, she was never able to compete at her full potential this year or improve in the high jump.

“Fortunately my injury didn’t affect my other track events (such as the 4×100-meter relay, long jump and 300-meter dash), so I was still able to compete in other things,” Johnson said. 

(Photo used by permission of Jacqueline Chao)
Freshman Chardonnay Needler is carted to her car after injuring her ankle in a tennis match.

In tennis, freshman Chardonnay Needler suffered an ankle injury in the March 8 game against Highlands High School.

“(Doubles partner sophomore) Zihao (Sui) and I were playing really well, and then when I hit the ball, my ankle landed incorrectly,” Needler said.

She wasn’t able to get up, so coach Jamie Nelson had to carry her to the bench.

“I was told that my shoes weren’t right for tennis because they didn’t have enough ankle support,” Needler said.

When Needler saw a foot specialist, she learned that she had sprained her ankle. She had to wear a boot on her right leg and crutches for two weeks.

“I lost my mobility,” Needler said. “I couldn’t walk, run or do anything I wanted without major difficulty and pain.

“The crutches even hurt my back and underarms.”

In addition to a bruised and sprained right ankle, Needler said her left ankle became overused. 

It took her two months to fully recover, but even now she can’t run as well as she used to, she said. 

Needler missed about three-quarters of the season. 

“It took much longer than I expected to heal from a minor accident,” Needler said. 

“Tennis is a non-contact sport. The worst injury I was expecting was to maybe get a bruise from getting hit by a tennis ball.”

Even golfers aren’t immune from ankle injuries.

Senior Ben Felix, who plays for the golf and boys’ varsity baseball teams, injured his ankle at a golf match at Rancho Solano about a month ago.  

As Felix was walking to a different hole, he misstepped and tripped, rolling his ankle.

“I thought I wasn’t going to be able to play (my next baseball game), but I just had my ankle taped to limit its movement and let me play,” Felix said. 

Felix said he didn’t miss any games due to his injury. 

According to P.E. department coordinator Michelle Myers, who has worked as an athletic trainer, many of these injuries could have been prevented to a certain degree if the athletes had done more conditioning.

“Conditioning can help big time (in preventing sports injuries),” Myers said. 

“Athletes get fatigued and tired, so if they don’t get enough rest between practices or games, they’re more prone to get injuries.” 

She said that junior colleges, colleges and almost all big high schools have athletic trainers. These trainers meet with the coaches and athletes pre-season, during the season, and postseason to help prevent injuries by treating athletes and giving them programs. 

Less expensive options for helping reduce sports injuries include getting taped and wearing preventative braces.

—By Katia Dahmani

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