Aching Ankles From Basketball

Achiness in the ankles while playing basketball can occur abruptly from a sudden injury or develop gradually over time, and it can result from a variety of conditions and errors. Ankle achiness may not only affect the way that you play basketball, it can halt your game prematurely and dissuade you from future play.

close up of ankle in basketball shoes Credit: Kuzma/iStock/Getty Images

Possible Causes

You can experience aching ankles while playing basketball if you do not warm up or fail to wear supportive shoes. Basketball requires frequent lateral movements that can strain your ankles, particularly when you defend the ball, forcing you to stop quickly, plant your foot and move rapidly in the opposite direction. In addition, landing wrong after jumping or twisting your body can cause a sprain, ruptured tendon, muscle pull, torn ligament or even a broken ankle. Excessive practice or play can also stress the ankles and result in conditions such as Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis. Outdoor asphalt courts do not provide adequate shock absorption and can place extreme stress on the ankles, resulting in pain.

Treatment Options

Rest your ankles and refrain from playing basketball until the injury heals. Immobilize your ankle by using crutches or a brace if necessary to ease aching and discourage re-injury. Compress your injured ankle and reduce inflammation by applying ice to your ankle for no more than 15 minutes at a time. Prop your foot up to drain fluids away from the injury site, and to reduce pain and swelling. Severe ankle pain requires treatment from a doctor or sports injury therapist who can apply a plaster cast, prescribe medication or surgically repair the injury.


Stretch out your ankles with an exercise like ankle circles and warm up with a light activity such as brisk walking before you play basketball. Always wear properly fitting shoes that are designed for basketball, and which provide adequate shock absorption and ankle support. Strengthen the muscles in your upper and lower body by training with weights, your own body weight or an elastic band. Having strong muscles will help decrease the impact of playing basketball, which can help to prevent ankle injuries.


Contact a doctor if ankle pain is severe, chronic, accompanied by swelling or you suspect a sprain or fracture. Left untreated, injuries such as a sprain or fracture will cause further damage, instability of the joints in the ankle, severe and chronic pain or even the early onset of conditions such as arthritis. In addition, severe injury can cause scar tissue to build up in the ankle area, resulting in problems with ankle flexibility and range of motion.

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