A baseball player stealing base by sliding in head first.

Baseball Ankle Injuries: 7 Excellent Strategies To Prevent Them

With the approach of the summer, many of us will be looking forward to enjoying a weekly (or more frequent) game of baseball. However, by its very nature, baseball introduces a risk of ankle injuries, some of which could sideline you for the rest of the season.

In this post, we first examine why ankle injuries are a factor in baseball. We then go on to list the most common types of baseball ankle injury. Finally, we shall suggest 7 strategies to follow to try to avoid baseball ankle injuries.

Frequency Of Ankle Injuries In Baseball

As evidence of the high risk of ankle injuries involved in playing baseball, we refer to this study, which covered a six year period between 2011 and 2017 and focused on baseball players in both Major League Baseball (MLB) and Minor League Baseball (MiLB).

During this period, a total of 4,756 baseball ankle injuries were recorded among the players included in the study. They resulted in an average of 27 days of missed activity. The injuries to MLB players tended to be more serious than those to MiLB players and were 1.7 times more likely to require surgical treatment.

Why Does Baseball Introduce A High Risk of Ankle Injuries?

Baseball carries a risk of ankle injuries due to the nature of the sport and the specific movements required by the sport. Some reasons why baseball players are susceptible to ankle injuries include:

A baseball player sliding into base - one of the movements that increases the risk of baseball ankle injuries.
Sliding into base is one of the movements that introduces a risk of a baseball ankle injury.
  1. Running and Base Sliding: Baseball involves running, sprinting, and sliding into bases (see image on the right), which puts stress on the ankles. The sudden changes in speed, direction, and impact during these movements increase the risk of ankle sprains or fractures.
  2. Fielding and Agility Movements: Fielders need to react quickly to catch or field the ball, which involves sudden changes in direction, pivoting, and lateral movements. These movements can place strain on the ankle joints and increase the likelihood of rolling or twisting the ankle, which can result in an ankle strain.
  3. Stealing Bases: Stealing bases requires explosive bursts of speed and quick footwork, increasing the risk of ankle injuries during the acceleration and deceleration phases.
  4. Uneven Playing Surfaces: Baseball fields can have uneven surfaces, including grass, dirt, or gravel, which can increase the risk of tripping, slipping, or landing on an unstable surface, leading to ankle injuries.
  5. Impact from Collisions: Infielders and outfielders may collide with other players while attempting to catch or field the ball, (see image below), potentially resulting in direct trauma to the ankle joint.
  6. Overuse and Repetitive Movements: Baseball players may experience overuse (or repetitive stress) injuries, such as tendonitis or stress fractures, from repetitive movements, such as excessive running, pitching, or swinging, which can place stress on the ankle joints over time.

Which Are The Most Common Types Of Baseball Ankle Injury?

Two baseball players leap for the ball at the same time and collide with each other. The risk of collisions can give rise to a baseball ankle injury.
Two baseball players leap for the ball at the same time. The risk of collisions can give rise to baseball ankle injuries.

The most common types of ankle injuries in baseball include:

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments surrounding the ankle joint are stretched or torn, typically due to a sudden twist, roll, or turn of the ankle. In baseball, lateral ankle sprains are more common, affecting the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. These injuries often result from quick direction changes, sliding, or landing on an uneven surface.

Ankle Fracture

Ankle fractures involve the breaking of one or more bones in the ankle joint. They can occur as a result of a direct blow, a collision, or a forceful twist of the ankle. Fractures can range from minor cracks to complete breaks and may require immobilization or surgical intervention depending on the severity.

High Ankle Sprains

High ankle sprains, also known as syndesmotic sprains, involve damage to the ligaments connecting the tibia and fibula (the two lower leg bones) above the ankle joint. These injuries often occur from excessive twisting or rotational forces and can lead to prolonged recovery times compared to traditional ankle sprains.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Baseball players can develop Achilles tendonitis due to repetitive stress on the tendon, such as during running or jumping motions. This condition can cause pain and stiffness in the back of the ankle.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a compression or irritation of the posterior tibial nerve within the tarsal tunnel, a narrow space located on the inside of the ankle. Baseball players may experience this condition due to repetitive overuse, such as running or repetitive ankle movements, leading to symptoms such as pain, tingling, or numbness in the ankle and foot.

It’s important to note that the severity and prevalence of these injuries can vary among individuals and depend on factors such as playing position, playing style, previous injuries, and conditioning. Prompt and appropriate medical evaluation and treatment are essential for proper management and rehabilitation of ankle injuries in baseball.

7 Strategies For Preventing Baseball Ankle Injuries

Baseball player tying his laces and wearing shoes with cleats on the underside.
Baseball shoes should have cleats on the underside for added traction and to reduce the risk of slipping

To reduce the risk of ankle injuries in baseball, players can consider the following preventive measures:

  1. Proper Warm-up: Engaging in a thorough warm-up routine before practices or games helps prepare the muscles, ligaments, and joints for the physical demands of the sport.
  2. Strengthening and Conditioning: Incorporating exercises that focus on ankle strength, stability, and flexibility can help support the joints and reduce the risk of injuries.
  3. Proper Footwear: Wearing appropriate baseball cleats or shoes with good ankle support and traction can enhance stability and reduce the risk of slips and falls.
  4. Technique and Form: Learning and practising proper technique for running, sliding, fielding, and throwing can help minimize the risk of awkward movements that may lead to ankle injuries.
  5. Injury Rehabilitation: If an ankle injury occurs, seeking prompt medical attention and following a comprehensive rehabilitation program can ensure proper healing, restore strength, and reduce the risk of re-injury.
  6. Conditioning Playing Surfaces: Ensuring that baseball fields are well-maintained, with even surfaces, adequate drainage, and appropriate field conditions, can help minimize the risk of ankle injuries.
  7. Communication and Awareness: Players should communicate and be aware of their surroundings on the field to avoid collisions with other players, potentially preventing direct trauma to the ankles.

By implementing these preventive measures and maintaining good conditioning, baseball players can reduce the risk of ankle injuries and enjoy the sport while maximizing their performance and safety.


In this post, we have explained the reasons why baseball ankle injuries are relatively common. We have also suggested some examples of the most common types of baseball ankle injury. We ended the post by suggesting 7 measures you can take to minimize the risk of suffering an ankle injury while playing baseball.

We hope you will find this information useful as you prepare to spend the next few months enjoying your favourite pastime. Should you have any questions or comments on this post, please don’t hesitate to leave them below and we will respond as soon as possible.

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