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Whenever I see a woman walking (or trying to) in stilettos skinny heels over 3 inches high my first thought is, “There’s a sprained ankle waiting to happen.”

An estimated 28,000 ankle injuries occur daily in the United States, most of them through sporting activities, including jogging on uneven surfaces. But while no one suggests remaining sedentary to protect your ankles, experts wisely warn against purposely putting them at risk by wearing hazardous shoes or getting back in the game before an injured ankle has healed.

If you’ve ever thought, “Oh, it’s just a sprain,” read on. The latest information about ankle sprains, released in a position statement last month by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, clearly shows that ankle injuries should never be taken lightly and are too often mistreated or not treated at all.

The result is an ankle prone to prolonged discomfort, reinjury, chronic disability and early arthritis.

Ankle injuries are the most common mishap among sports participants, accounting for nearly half of all athletic injuries. According to the report by the trainers’ association, the highest incidence occurs in field hockey, followed by volleyball, football, basketball, cheerleading, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, rugby, track and field, gymnastics and softball.

I was surprised that tennis did not make the list, since any sport that involves quick changes in direction leaves ankles especially vulnerable to unnatural twists. Other reasons for ankle injury among athletes include landing awkwardly from jumps, stepping on another athlete’s foot, trauma to the ankle when the heel lands during running, and stressing the foot when it is in a fixed position.

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